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Tuesday, February 16, 2010     GET REAL

Al Qaida assassination planner captured in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Iraq has captured an Al Qaida specialist tied to multiple assassinations.   

Iraqi security forces have detained an operative deemed a leading member of the Al Qaida network. The operative, arrested on Feb. 11, was described as a specialist in explosives who planned numerous assassinations in the Baghdad area.

"Iraqi forces and U.S. advisers searched two residential buildings with court warrants for an AQI cell leader and associate responsible for numerous assassinations and improvised explosive device attacks in the region," the U.S. military said on Feb. 15.

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Officials said the captured operative could be linked to a spate of mass-casualty suicide strikes around Baghdad since August 2009. About 500 people have been killed in AQI attacks that targeted government ministries and Shi'ite pilgrims.

[On Feb. 16, a bomb killed at least two police officers at a crime laboratory in the northern city of Mosul. Officials said Al Qaida has been targeting police facilities in several Iraqi cities.]

The AQI leader and several other operatives were arrested in three counter-insurgency operations meant to suppress the Al Qaida network in the Baghdad area. The leader was captured during a search in western Baghdad.

The Al Qaida leader was not identified by either the U.S. military or Iraq. Officials said senior members of Al Qaida were hiding in the areas of Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala and Kirkuk.

In another operation, Iraqi and U.S. troops searched for another Al Qaida bomb cell. The cell was said to assemble improvised explosive devices for AQI.

"The security team arrested the suspect after finding numerous electronic components used to make IEDs and IED initiators in his apartment and an adjacent workshop," the U.S. military said on Feb. 15.

Al Qaida was also said to have established a presence in Kirkuk, a city split between Kurds and ethnic Turks. Officials said Al Qaida has been maintaining several safehouses for cells and visiting insurgency commanders.

In a Feb. 10 operation, Iraqi forces searched for an Al Qaida member who provided safe haven for senior insurgency operatives south of Kirkuk. Officials said a suspected associate of the insurgency commander was arrested.

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