The Iraqi government announced Monday (May 17th) the arrest of two Arab nationals described as two of the most dangerous leaders of the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq.
Baghdad Operations Command spokesperson Gen. Qassim Atta said that the two suspects, a Saudi and an Algerian, were arrested based on Iraqi intelligence information in two separate operations in Baghdad.
"A force of the Iraqi Army's 6th Division, 54th Brigade, managed to arrest the security official of al-Qaeda in Baghdad, alias Sinan al-Saudi," Atta said at a news conference held in the capital. "He is a Saudi national born in 1979 and he graduated from al-Fahd Security College in 2004. He is an officer, a lieutenant, in the Saudi Army."
Atta said that al-Saudi entered Iraq in 2004 through the al-Qaim area and Husaybah in Anbar province, after which he became the security official of al-Qaeda in Anbar and Salahaddin provinces. Al-Saudi also used the alias Mohammed Hamdan Fazie al-Shemmari.
Media reports identified al-Saudi as Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani.
Atta accused the Saudi detainee of taking part in criminal operations, including robbing jewelry stores in Baghdad and killing the shop owners, participating in bombings that targeted a number of hotels, and bombing the forensic evidence building in Baghdad. In addition, al-Saudi is suspected of planning to target religious shrines in Najaf and Karbala.
"Al-Saudi was also planning in coordination with "Wali of Baghdad" Manaf al-Rawi, who is currently being detained, to carry out a number of operations," Atta added. "These operations include robbing the Islamic Economic Bank in Baghdad and planning the bombing of a number of Baghdad areas with the aim of inciting sectarian strife."
Atta also accused the Saudi detainee of plotting with al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to "carry out a number of attacks during the World Cup in South Africa".
In an interview with AP on Tuesday, al-Qahtani said he was working on a proposal to Zawahiri to attack Danish and Dutch teams or their fans in South Africa with car bombs. It is not clear whether al-Qahtani had the capability to carry out such attacks.
Iraqi security officials said the second suspect, Algerian Tarek Hassan Abdul Kadir, alias Abu Yasin al-Jazaeri, was the military leader of al-Karkh in Baghdad. He is an Algerian national born in 1976 and was a resident of Algiers.
Atta said Iraqi forces withheld the announcement of al-Jazaeri's arrest until Monday to ensure that investigations with him were conducted in secrecy.
According to Atta, al-Jazaeri entered Iraq through Syria in 2005 and joined a training camp of the so-called Arab fighters in al-Karabilah area in Anbar province.
"Al-Jazaeri was tasked with a reconnaissance mission before the execution of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attacks on Blood Wednesday several months ago," Atta said. "He also took part in robbing al-Nebal Money Exchange Company in Baghdad last year, where he killed a number of employees and stole large amounts of money. This is in addition to his participation in robbing a jewelry store on Palestine Street and killing the owner."
"Al-Qaeda is now suffering a major financial crisis after losing many of their financing sources," Atta said. "They are currently dependent upon stealing and armed robbery against banks to finance their operations."
Atta added that security forces obtained important information on al-Qaeda through investigations with the two detainees.
"The arrest of the two leaders sent a clear signal to all Arab fighters in Iraq that their life in Iraq has become very short," said Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. "It also gave a signal to those who desire to enter the country that they will be going to prison and not into the fields of destruction that they want to cause in our beloved country."