BAGHDAD, (AFP) – Iraqi and US forces have arrested the “number one butcher” responsible for beheadings in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad, a defence ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
“Iraqi forces received intelligence on a very dangerous terrorist known as the number-one butcher who was responsible for a beheading squad that slaughtered innocent people,” Major General Mohammed al-Askari said.
The suspect, Riyad Wahab Hassan Falih, “also supervised the training of terrorists specialising in beheading Iraqis,” he added in a statement.
The arrest came amid a series of operations across the province in which Iraqi army troops backed by local tribes apprehended 65 people in 72 hours.
In an operation early on Wednesday, troops arrested nine local Al-Qaeda leaders who had been hiding in an underground bunker used for torturing and beheading captives.
In another raid in the north of Diyala, Iraqi security forces shot dead five fighters when they raided a weapons cache, the ministry said.
Iraq has seen dramatic improvements in security in recent months but Diyala province, a mixed Sunni and Shiite region, has remained among the most dangerous areas of the country and continues to see near-daily killings.