Baku-APA. Iraq's acting interior minister has denied that the top leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq network has been arrested, noting that the detained man is a much lower-level operative of the terrorist organization, APA reports quoting Press TV.
In an exclusive interview with al-Jazeera news network on Saturday, Adnan al-Assadi said the suspect was believed to be a section commander in charge of an area, stretching from the northern outskirts of the capital Baghdad to the town of Taji, situated 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Baghdad.
"Anyone from al-Qaeda is important … but he is not a very senior al-Qaeda leader," he said.
Assadi also said that al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq were directing operations in Syria, and that a US refusal to sell his country advanced surveillance equipment was hampering efforts to fight the organization.
He added that while Iraqi forces have considerably weakened the Islamic State of Iraq network, it was still believed to maintain up to 2,000 or 3,000 members in Iraq, and its leaders were directing al-Qaeda operations across the border in Syria.
"The Islamic State of Iraq - the link to al-Qaeda - has responsibility for Syria. They send fighters from Iraq to Syria, the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq controls Syria and they go back and forth between the two countries,” Assadi said.
The acting Iraqi interior minister further noted that al-Qaeda's hideouts in al-Anbar, Nineveh, and Salahuddin provinces were in areas too large and remote for Iraqi forces to patrol effectively.
"If you have two million soldiers you couldn't cover it. It needs to be covered with satellite and aerial surveillance which we do not have now," Assadi said.
He also said Iraqi counter-terrorism efforts have suffered from the loss of US aerial surveillance in and around the capital, where al-Qaeda is also believed to be regrouping.
"We have tried to persuade US forces to leave their air space surveillance in Baghdad and surrounding areas but they refused. We have tried to acquire this system from them through any means and at any price and still American forces refused…because they say it is advanced technology,” Assadi said.
Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces announced on December 3 that they had arrested the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a raid in northern Baghdad. They also alleged that the man in custody was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was named head of the Islamic State of Iraq two years ago.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a shadowy group that was once allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was reportedly killed in June 2006.
According to US government and military officials, the group was then led by Ayyub al-Masri, who was killed along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- another leader of the group -- in a joint Iraqi-US operation in Salahuddin province in April 2010.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
- 01/04/2015 Iraqi forces clear remaining IS redoubts in Tikrit
- 01/04/2015 Iran nuclear talks may go beyond deadline to April 1: US diplomat
- 01/04/2015 At least 62 children killed in Yemen violence over past week
- 01/04/2015 Saudi forces and Houthi fighters exchange heavy fire on border - residents
- 31/03/2015 Iraqi forces take back Tikrit from ISIS, official says
- 31/03/2015 Japan extends sanctions on North Korea by two years
- 31/03/2015 Iran says new proposals on outstanding issues possible at Lausanne negotiations
- 31/03/2015 Coalition planes strike air defense camp in Yemen's Taizz
- 31/03/2015 Assad: Turkey supports ISIL in Syria
- 30/03/2015 Security forces continue clashes with IS militants in Iraq
- 30/03/2015 At least 4 injured in SW China earthquake
- 30/03/2015 CEC: Karimov wins Uzbek presidential election with 90.39% of votes
- 30/03/2015 Bombing continues, Arab leaders urge Yemen's Houthis to withdraw from capital
- 30/03/2015 Earthquke revised to 7.7-magnitude quake in 54km SE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
- 30/03/2015 Gunmen assassinate Pakistan's army officer
- 30/03/2015 30 IS militants killed in Iraqi clashes, airstrikes
- 30/03/2015 Security forces kill five militants in SW Pakistan
- 30/03/2015 Iran, powers explore nuclear compromises, Israel alarmed
- 29/03/2015 Fighting and air strikes across Yemen, dialogue remains distant
- 29/03/2015 3 killed in suicide attack in Afghan capital
- 29/03/2015 Air strikes cripple Yemen capital’s airport
- 29/03/2015 Turkey denies asking to attend Arab League summit
- 29/03/2015 5.8 magnitude quake strikes off Gorontalo, Indonesia
- 29/03/2015 Voting for presidential election begins in Uzbekistan
- 29/03/2015 Iran's Rafsanjani condemns Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen
- 29/03/2015 Iraqi forces kill 74 Daesh militants
- 29/03/2015 Death toll in central China mine flood rises to
- 28/03/2015 Tripartite meeting on Iran’s nuclear issue held in Lausanne
- 28/03/2015 Zarif: Iran makes political decision to get into agreement with P5+1
- 28/03/2015 Dozens killed in explosions at arms depot in Yemen's Aden
- 28/03/2015 Yemeni President accuses Iran of arming Houthis
- 28/03/2015 Saudi king says Yemen campaign to continue until achieves targets
- 28/03/2015 Eight security personnel, 4 militants killed in Pakistan
- 28/03/2015 Former Yemeni President Demands for Saudi-led Coalition
- 28/03/2015 Lebanese army seize strategic border sites from militants
- 28/03/2015 UAE warplanes took part in Yemen strikes: coalition
- 28/03/2015 Iraq paramilitaries decide Tikrit pullback
- 28/03/2015 8 children wounded by cluster bomb in south Lebanon
- 27/03/2015 Yemen Houthi rebels advance despite Saudi-led air strikes
- 27/03/2015 Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen