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.
- 01/08/2014 Israel, Hamas agree to 72-hour-truce as Gaza death toll keeps rising
- 01/08/2014 Offensive on Gaza big gamble for Israelis: Hamas
- 01/08/2014 Erdogan: Israeli genocide reminiscent of Holocaust
- 01/08/2014 Assad vows persistent fight against "terrorism" in Syria
- 01/08/2014 People around world finally standing up against Israeli genocide in Gaza: DeBar
- 31/07/2014 Suspected gas leakage causes multiple blasts in Taiwan
- 31/07/2014 Explosion hits China chemical plant
- 31/07/2014 China urges U.S. not to interfere in sovereignty
- 31/07/2014 27 killed in clashes and bomb attacks across Iraq
- 31/07/2014 Malaysia denies providing training for Hamas fighters
- 31/07/2014 Israel 'to destroy' Hamas Gaza tunnels - Netanyahu
- 31/07/2014 Israel Calls Up 16000 More Reservists
- 31/07/2014 Hezbollah commander killed in Iraq: sources
- 31/07/2014 Dubai, European airlines divert flights over Iraq
- 31/07/2014 Car bombing rocks Syria's Homs, casualties feared
- 31/07/2014 17 killed in Israel tank shelling on Gaza market: medics
- 31/07/2014 UN chief demands end to hostilities in Malaysian plane crash area in Ukraine
- 31/07/2014 Bloody mayhem at Gaza market as Israel observes 'lull'
- 30/07/2014 Iraqi militias execute, hang 15 people: police
- 30/07/2014 Five killed in Gaza despite Israel's 4-hour cease-fire: medics
- 30/07/2014 50 Palestinians killed in Gaza today
- 30/07/2014 11 arrested in 'parallel state' sweep in Turkey
- 30/07/2014 Chinese, Australian FMs discuss MH17 incident over phone
- 30/07/2014 Barrage of rockets fired on Israel: Israeli police
- 30/07/2014 Turkey delivers medical aid to Gaza
- 30/07/2014 12 killed, 6 missing in boat sinking in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
- 29/07/2014 Heavy casualties reported in Xinjiang terror attack
- 29/07/2014 Fresh Israeli air raid on Gaza wipes out entire family
- 29/07/2014 Israeli air strikes kill 30 Palestinians in Gaza
- 29/07/2014 Subaru recalls vehicles in China
- 29/07/2014 10 Israeli soldiers killed east of Shujaiyya
- 29/07/2014 Israel to deliver devastating strike against Hamas soon - defense minister
- 28/07/2014 Death toll rises to 21 in southern Philippines ambush
- 28/07/2014 Iraq army launches anti-militant raid, kills 17
- 28/07/2014 Israeli strikes leave 10 more Palestinians dead in Gaza
- 28/07/2014 North Korea threatens nuclear strike on US
- 28/07/2014 Netanyahu says UN's call neglects Israel's security needs
- 28/07/2014 Test for Iran’s largest military ship for Caspian navy underway
- 28/07/2014 UN Security Council calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
- 27/07/2014 Turkey says suspends operations in Libya embassy due to security woes