Iraqi security forces have arrested a senior militant commander of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq network in the countryâ€™s western al-Anbar Province, officials say.
According to an Iraqi security official who spoke on condition of anonymity, Adnan al-Awesi was arrested in a sting operation Wednesday afternoon.
This arrest comes after Iraqi troops launched a large-scale operation in the countryâ€™s western desert on May 25 in an effort to clear the area of al-Qaeda militants.
Some 20,000 forces took part in the operation and attacked al-Qaeda hideouts in the area. The Iraqi Army also managed to take control of a large terrorist base in the province near the border with neighboring Jordan.
Western Iraq has been confirmed to have been used by militants for infiltrating into neighboring Syria to join the foreign-backed militants in their fight against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Established in 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella organization bringing together several Iraqi insurgent groups.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a shadowy group that was once allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was reportedly killed in June 2006.
According to the US government and military officials, after Zarqawiâ€™s death, the groupâ€™s leadership fell to Ayyub al-Masri, who was killed, along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi — another leader of the group — in a joint operation by Iraqi and US troops in Salahuddin Province in April 2010.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in the country since the US-led invasion in March 2003.