Questioning of at least one ISIS suspect was done under the ‘direct supervision’ of Prime Minister Abadi, pictured here posing with security force personnel while on the campaign trail in Kirkuk. Photo: Haider al-Abadi/Twitter
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi forces have captured “five most dangerous leaders of ISIS,” state TV reported on Wednesday.
The five were arrested by the national intelligence service on Iraqi soil, according to the broadcaster.
One was identified as Saddam Omar Hussein, who was reported dead in 2016.
Hussein was interrogated by the Central Investigative Court under the “direct supervision” of Haider al-Abadi, prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He reported admitted to “a lot of divisions and break-ups inside the organization” of ISIS, state TV reported.
According to the coalition, the operation was done in coordination between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) across the border.
“The arrest is a significant blow to Daesh,” coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon tweeted on Wednesday, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
He said it “demonstrates close coordination” between the Iraqi security forces and the SDF across the border.
Brett McGurk, US special presidential envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, also hailed the “great cooperation” between the two forces.
US President Donald Trump tweeted enthusiastically “Five Most Wanted leaders of ISIS just captured!”
Initial reports indicate ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not among the five captured though a senior aide of his recently came into Iraqi custody.
Ismail al-Eithawi was captured by Turkish authorities in February and handed over to Iraq, Hisham al-Hashimi, security advisor to the Iraqi government, told Reuters on Thursday. He is a direct aide to Baghdadi and was responsible for international money transfers for the extremist group.
Iraqi authorities were able to use an app on Eithawi’s cell phone to trap four ISIS commanders, he explained, drawing them across the border from Syria into Iraq.
He named the four commanders as Saddam Jamal, a Syrian and ISIS governor of the eastern Euphrates region, and field commanders Syrian Mohamed al-Qadeer, Iraqi Omar al-Karbouli, and Iraqi Essam al-Zawbai.
The SDF, with coalition backing, launched earlier this month a campaign against ISIS in two remaining pockets in eastern Deir ez-Zor province, east of the Euphrates.
At least 16 ISIS militants were killed in coalition shelling of their positions in the Hajin area, on the banks of the Euphrates on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The SDF is coordinating with Iraqi forces and Iraqi jets have carried out strikes against ISIS on the Syrian side of the border.