Iraq's national security adviser on Sunday announced the arrest of the second most senior figure in al-Qaida in Iraq. Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, was arrested a few days ago, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said.
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"We believe that al-Qaida in Iraq suffers from a serious leadership crisis. Our troops have dealt fatal and painful blows to this organization," he said.
Al-Saeedi was the second most important al-Qaida in Iraq leader after Abu Ayyub al-Masri, all-Rubaie said.
Al-Masri succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as head of al-Qaida in Iraq after al-Zarqawi was killed by a US airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7.
Al-Saeedi was "directly responsible" for the person who carried out the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, al-Rubaie added. The bombing inflamed tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and triggered reprisal attacks that continue to this day.
"Al-Saeedi carried out al-Qaida's policies in Iraq and the orders of the slain al-Zarqawi to incite sectarian violence in the country, through attempting to start a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis - but their wishes did not materialize," al-Rubaie added.
He said authorities had obtained information about al-Saeedi after al-Zarqawi was killed. The information indicated he had been operating in Salahuddin province, then moved south to northern Baghdad and had been operating outside Baqouba, the same area where al-Zarqawi was killed.
Al-Saeedi had been hiding in a residential building. "He wanted to use children and women as human shields during the arrest, which is why the operation was based on a very precise military plan to preserve the lives of women and children in the building," al-Rubaie said, adding that there had been no casualties during the arrest.
He said al-Saeedi also gave up information that led to the arrest or killing of 11 top al-Qaida in Iraq figures, and nine lower-level members. The security adviser said he would not reveal the identities of the other suspects arrested, or where al-Saeedi was caught, for security reasons.
"Hamed al-Saeedi supervised terrorist groups that kidnapped people for ransom, and killed policemen after they received their salaries in order to finance terrorist operations," the security adviser said. "He used to order terrorist operations using mortars and roadside bombs, which led to the killing of several troops and innocent civilians."
He said al-Saeedi also supervised the creation of death squads and ordered assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and attacks on Iraqi police and army checkpoints.
"The operations were brutal and merciless," he said.