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Neo-Salafi Leaders Arrested.

The authorities recently arrested three suspected senior leaders of AQM. Defence Ministry spokesman Maj-Gen Muhammad al-Askari on July 27 was quoted as saying: "Iraqi soldiers arrested Salim Khaled al-Zawba'ei, the minister of defence for the [AQM] Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). He was arrested in the evening of July 21 south of Baghdad".

Zawba'ei organised a July 18 suicide bombing in the town of Radwaniyah, west of Baghdad, targeting members of the anti-AQM awakening councils (ACs) being paid their wages. Forty-five people were killed and 46 wounded in that bombing. Soldiers also arrested two brothers - Ja'bar and Qadoori al-Radhi Khamis al-Zaidi - responsible for operations in Diyala - in the northern city of Tikrit, capital of Salahuddin. These two were ISI "emirs", according to Gen Askari.

The arrests came as Iraqi security forces pressed a man-hunt for four suspected AQM members who escaped from a jail on the western outskirts of Baghdad in the previous week. The four who escaped from the Cropper detention facility were the ISI's suspected ministers of justice and finance, along with a "judge" and another suspected AQM member, a police source said. Their disappearance had been a major embarrassment for Maleli's government, which only a week earlier took over the Cropper facility from the US military. Lt-Gen Robert Cone, the deputy commander for US forces in Iraq, on July 23 said: "We are working with the Iraqi ministry of justice to do an investigation to determine how this exactly could have happened. It certainly is disturbing".

During two July 29 AQM attacks in Baghdad's Sunni district of Athamiya, the site of some of the most vicious sectarian war in 2006-07, the gunmen raised the Neo-Salafi group's black flag. The death toll there included 6 soldiers and police officers and 10 civilians, while 14 others were wounded. Later, 10 more civilians were injured in a gunfight between AQM insurgents and Iraqi security forces which lasted into the evening and put the neighbourhood into a virtual lock-down as the army and police sealed off roads.

The violence was the latest in a series of AQM attacks. Among them were the bombings of the Trade Bank of Iraq and the Central Bank. In sum, the attacks suggested an AQM still capable of terrorising the Iraqis on nearly daily basis. Adm Mullen on July 29 said "hope abounds", while acknowledging AQM's ability to "murder and maim".

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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Aug 2, 2010
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