Iraqi security forces seized Abu Abdullah Al Shafi’l, the emir of Ansar Al Islam, and “seven criminal associates” during raids in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Mansour and Adhamiya, the military said in a statement issued on Monday.
Ansar Al Islam “is allegedly responsible for funding and terrorist operations in Europe and the United Kingdom” and the distribution of “extremist propaganda.”
Al Shafi’l is believed to have served the group since its inception and is believed to be behind attacks against Iraqi civilians, Kurdish police, and Iraqi and coalition forces.
Al Shafi’l also is believed to have had an association with Osama Bin Laden and apparently modeled himself after the al Qaeda leader.
The military believes the capture of the militant leader should significantly degrade the country’s Ansar Al Islam network, which authorities say “has long been a direct threat” to Iraq’s unification.
A Kurdish counter-terrorism organization supported by U.S. advisers helped Iraqi security forces search residential buildings in the raids.