Iraq reports arrest of al-Qaeda mastermind of '09 bombings
Friday, April 23, 2010
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials said Thursday that they have detained the mastermind behind a string of bombings last year that targeted key government facilities in the capital.
The disclosure of the March 11 arrest of Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi, the alleged Baghdad leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, came a day after U.S. military officials said the organization's top leader in the volatile northern city of Mosul, Ahmad Ali Abbas Dahir al-Ubayd, had been killed in a raid.
The news of Rawi's arrest and Ubayd's slaying are the latest blows to the Sunni insurgent group. Al-Qaeda in Iraq's top two national leaders were killed last weekend in a U.S. airstrike in the north.
Rawi coordinated the bombings of the Foreign, Justice, Finance and other ministries in August and October, Iraqi officials said Thursday. In Mosul, Ubayd allegedly oversaw kidnapping and bribery rings that al-Qaeda in Iraq operated to finance attacks.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said the recent operations against the network have peeled off some of its most dogmatic leaders. The military says "ideologues" are the backbone of the organization and characterizes its other members as "opportunists" and "nationalists."
"This really does degrade their abilities at the ideologue level," Lanza said in an interview.
He said U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officers are sifting through evidence collected after the weekend airstrike on the outskirts of Tikrit that killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who was also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer but whose real name was Yusif al-Dardiri, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
The operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq have come at an opportune time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to keep his job after disputed March 7 parliamentary elections.
But Maliki's administration also drew unwelcome scrutiny this week after the disclosure that a military unit under his command operated a secret prison at the al-Muthanna air base near Baghdad. Hundreds of Sunni Arab men arrested in the northern province of Nineveh last year were held incommunicado at the site and, in some cases, tortured.
The government has said that it is investigating the allegations, which were first reported Monday in the Los Angeles Times.
The facility includes two known jails, but last fall, after a military crackdown in northern Iraq, the unit under Maliki's command reportedly held 431 Sunni Arab men at an undisclosed location at the base.
Sunni leaders, whom Maliki is trying to court in an effort to form a parliamentary coalition large enough to win him reelection as prime minister, have reacted angrily to the reports of abuse. His main political rival, the secular Shiite and former prime minister Ayad Allawi, narrowly defeated Maliki, largely on the strength of support in Sunni areas.