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U.S.-Iraq op captures 150-man Al Qaida network said to have been run from Syria

BAGHDAD — The Iraq Army, in an operation guided by the U.S. military, has captured about 150 suspected Al Qaida operatives in the north.   

Officials said the Al Qaida operatives and loyalists of the late President Saddam Hussein were arrested in a crackdown in October around the northern city of Mosul. They said the mission, titled "Nineveh Wall" and guided by the U.S. military, was meant to disband the core Al Qaida presence in northern Iraq linked to neighboring Syria.

Officials said many of the Al Qaida fugitives were in contact with financiers and handlers in Syria. They cited Mohammed Yunis Al Ahmad, a resident of Syria and said to have financed most of the attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces.

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"This operation targets Al Qaida and Baathists in the city and those collaborating with them," Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al Askari said.

In a briefing on Oct. 3, Al Askari said the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry were cooperating in Nineveh Wall. He said soldiers and police were deployed around Mosul to prevent Al Qaida operatives from escaping.

Officials said the counter-insurgency operation was based on precise intelligence regarding the identity and whereabouts of senior Al Qaida agents. They said the operation was being directed from the Nineveh operation command center, staffed with Iraqi and U.S. military personnel.

At this point, about 150 Al Qaida operatives and Saddam agents were captured. They said another 100 targets were still being sought in the Mosul area, regarded as a leading stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.

Two of the detainees were identified as leading Al Qaida fugitives. Mohammed Al Juwali was identified as a planner of car bombings in Baghdad that targeted the government and security forces. Al Juwali, also known as Abu Anas, has been suspected of the Aug. 19 attacks on the Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry.

"Abu Anas was planning future VBIED [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device] attacks in Baghdad, threatening government of Iraq institutions and security personnel," the U.S. military said.

Another detainee was identified as Khalid Al Juwali, captured in a town near Kirkuk. Khalid was said to have been working with Al Qaida car bombing cells in the Kirkuk province.

"Iraqi security forces are making a concerted effort to identify, locate, and arrest members of VBIED networks throughout the country, ultimately increasing security and safety for all its citizens," the U.S. military said.

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