Senior ISIL leader al-Ithawi caught in Turkey’s northwest extradited to Iraq
BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse
AI-Ithawi, 55, was tracked to Turkey’s northwestern Sakarya province, detained and returned through cooperation between Turkish, Iraqi and U.S. intelligence agencies, a senior official in the interior ministry’s Falcons unit hunting ISIL members told Agence France-Presse.
The break came after his unit had “infiltrated the highest levels” of the jihadist group, he said.
A native of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, Ithawi was the group’s “minister” in charge of religious edicts and headed an ISIL committee that decided on senior appointments, according to the official.
He had fled the group’s now-shattered “caliphate” in Syria and was living under his brother’s name in northern Turkey.
“We asked our ambassador in Ankara to intervene with the Turkish authorities by providing the arrest warrant issued by Iraqi courts and recent photos of Ismail,” the official said.
Meanwhile, a court in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Feb. 16 arrested two suspects of foreign nationality on charges of being a member of the ISIL.
The arrest came after three suspects were detained on Feb. 15 in a police raid in the province. Two suspects, both of Iraqi nationality, were arrested the next day by a court order, whereas the third suspect, of Syrian nationality, was released on a judicial control decision.
The ISIL swept across Syria and northern Iraq in a lightning advance in 2014, unleashing a reign of terror across a vast swathe of territory that lasted some three years.
The group’s territory has now been wiped out in Iraq and reduced to a small foothold in Syria by a series of punishing assaults in both countries.
The focus has since switched to tracking down the group’s senior leadership and the thousands of foreign fighters who once flocked to its banner.