The Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced on Saturday (January 1st) the arrest of 20 individuals described as belonging to an assassination network targeting Iraqi judges.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said Iraqi Army Intelligence forces, in co-operation with a specialised team from the Interior Ministry, monitored the movements of the suspected individuals and launched a raid on Friday based on their reconnaissance.
"The operation was kicked off in different areas in southern Baghdad province and Babil province, and led to the arrest of the 20 members of the terrorist cell," al-Askari said.
The security operation – code-named "Scales of Justice" -- covered the areas of al-Madain, al-Mahmoudiya, al-Latifiya, and Selman Bek south of Baghdad, as well as the town of al-Haswa in northern Babil province. Two hundred Iraqi Army and intelligence unit forces took part in the operation, with US Army aerial support providing cover for ground forces at the request of the Iraqi government.
The detainees included Saddam Dayekh al-Khazraji, described by al-Askari as the leader of the terrorist cell.
"The terrorist has expressly admitted to committing a number of assassination crimes against Iraqi judges using silencer-equipped guns and sticky bombs," al-Askari said. "He also admitted that he received an amount ranging between $150 and $200 from the leaders of al-Qaeda terrorist organisation for each terrorist operation to kill judges."
Judge Barakat al-Taey of the Supreme Judicial Council told Mawtani that "targeting judges and personnel working in the justice system in Iraq is not a new thing for al-Qaeda; it has been known for that since it was born into this world. Anyway, this is the method of any outlawed group or gang."
Al-Taey noted that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups tried to terrorise judges in Iraq by assassinating judicial personnel and threatening a large number of them with murder and displacement. "However, the terrorists have failed. They will stand before judges and will be held accountable for their crimes as per the Iraqi law and under the justice of law."
"The Iraqi judiciary has ordered the imprisonment of a large number of terrorist groups and armed militia members," explained Maj. Tarik al-Saadi, spokesperson for Iraqi Army's 11th Division. "It has also ordered the execution of a number of them as per the law because of their heinous acts against the Iraqis. For that, the terrorists are targeting the judges."
"Iraqi forces put an end within about four hours to one of the most important files of terrorism in Iraq," al-Saadi said. "The success of this operation is proof that Iraqi forces are making steady progress."
Interior Ministry advisor General Tariq al-Asal said, "After the Iraqi judiciary system was able to sentence the terrorists and criminals to prison, al-Qaeda has been trying to target Iraqi judges to disrupt the security, economic and social situations in Iraq. If Qaeda succeeded in killing Iraqi judges and ending their work, it would create disruption in every aspect of life in Iraq. But the Iraqi security forces will prevent that and will foil the terrorists' plans."
Lt. Col. Hameed al-Ani of the Iraqi Interior Ministry said, "The members of these terrorist cells have shown their weakness and lack of solidarity among themselves. This is the case of all members of terrorist groups."
In other security news, Iraqi forces arrested two wanted individuals in Mosul involved in last week's twin suicide attacks targeting Mosul's police emergency centre, in which a security leader and a number of security personnel were killed.
Maj. Gen. al-Askari said the two detainees are Salih Mahmoud Issa al-Sharabi and his aide Ali Mahmoud al-Jubouri.
"They were arrested and a vehicle, a Kia, carrying criminal evidence, such as video tapes and a recording of the terrorist operation, was seized," he added.