In two separate operations in Baghdad and Mosul this week, Iraqi security forces arrested al-Qaeda in Iraq's "number three man" and killed the organisation's "emir of northern Iraq", Iraqi officials said.
These operations also led the arrest of 20 suspected al-Qaeda members.
On Wednesday (January 18th), the Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced that Abu Qutaiba al-Anbari, a well-known al-Qaeda leader, and his assistant Jawdat al-Othmany during a military raid in the city of Mosul.
Eleven suspected al-Qaeda members were arrested during the operation.
A special Iraqi army unit launched the operation and targeted a building in the Gharka area west of Mosul, according to Ministry of Defence spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammad al-Askeri.
Al-Askeri said the force engaged in a gunfire battle with the militants when they approached the building.
He told Al-Shorfa that al-Anbari was "involved in launching heinous attacks including the killing of about 80 civilians in the Zinjily area in autumn 2008".
He said al-Anbari's assistant is "accused of being involved in many other attacks and of communicating with al-Qaeda cells in the northern region, as well as preparing for armed attacks".
Col. Hisham Jawad al-Shuwaily of the Ninawa Operations Command said the raid occurred after authorities received intelligence about the arrival of al-Anbari and his assistant in Mosul from the Anbar desert.
He said the military force seized a laptop computer containing valuable information, weapons, rocket rounds, explosives, and foreign currency valued at $90,000.
Al-Shuwaily said members of military intelligence assisted with the operation by collecting information on the suspects' movement with help from citizens in the province.
Maj. Mohammad al-Jubouri, director of the criminal investigation section for the Mosul police, said the intelligence indicated that "al-Anbari was on his way to be nominated as the emir of al-Qaeda for the entire northern region of Iraq".
Al-Jubouri said the operation "represented a joint effort between the Iraqi army and the police, during which no incidents involving civilians in the area were recorded."
On Tuesday (January 17th), Iraqi army units arrested al-Qaeda in Iraq's "number three man" who is suspected of running the organisation's finances and administration, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence said.
The suspected leader's name is Faisal Ibrahim, also known as Abu al-Hawr al-Massoudi, according to Lt. Gen. Babaker Zibari, chief of staff of the Iraqi army.
The military operation was launched after receiving intelligence about the arrival of Ibrahim in the west Baghdad district of Ameriya to attend a meeting with a number of leaders and emirs of terrorist cells belonging to al-Qaeda, Zibari told Al-Shorfa.
He said the raid led to the arrest of nine of Ibrahim's assistants and emirs of terrorist cells that were scattered across the capital and other areas.
Iraqi Ministry of Defence spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammad al-Askeri said the army stormed the location while the group was meeting in a closed session and "planning for a number of new terrorist operations".
Al-Askeri told Al-Shorfa that all the detainees are wanted by Iraqi courts under article 4 of the anti-terrorism law.
Ibrahim is "the third man in the al-Qaeda chain of command, coming after the general emir of al-Qaeda and the general military commander, whose arrests or elimination has become a matter of time for the Iraqi forces", he said.
Al-Askeri added that the arrests "will lead to uncovering the names of other leaders, their whereabouts, and the areas where the cells and members of al-Qaeda are located in Iraq, as well as the present sources of their finances".
Maj. Gen. Ahmad al-Saedy, commander of the Iraqi army's sixth division whose units carried out the operation, said the army, for the first time, used night detection devices and modern armoured carriers.
"A force of 60 soldiers was able to storm and seal off the place, while another force secured the area and evacuated the nearby buildings that were inhabited by civilians," he said.
He said the building contained two huge underground depots for weapons and ammunition, which included 123 various sized bombs, 53 explosive charges, 45 Katyusha rockets, and seven barrels of TNT and C-4 explosives, each weighing 130 kilograms, along with 98 magnetic and ordinary charges.
"The rise in the number of al-Qaeda detainees, particularly leaders, is due to the growth of Iraqi army capabilities and the patriotic feelings of the Iraqi people who have recently become more co-operative with the army and police forces," al-Saedy said.
Chairman of the Iraqi parliament's defence and security committee, Hassan al-Sunaid, said the operation "would have a great impact on security".
"The arrest of Abu al-Hawr came at an important time and phase for Iraq because it will now be possible to uncover al-Qaeda names and figures who stand behind the terrorist attacks," he said.