At least five senior Islamic State officials have been captured in a three-month operation by Iraqi and American intelligence that involved phone apps and the breaking of secret bank accounts and communication codes, according to news reports.
The captures were announced Wednesday on Iraqi state TV, which broadcast images of four of the detainees wearing yellow prisoner jumpsuits.
President Trump, in a tweet on Thursday, said only that “Five Most Wanted leaders of ISIS just captured.”
The New York Times, citing two unidentified Iraqi officials, reported that the five included Ismail Alwaan al-Ithawi, who is described as a top aide to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the secretive leader of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate that he declared in 2014. He remains on the run.
The report said Ithawi had been tracked by Iraqi intelligence to the Turkish city of Sakarya, where he was living under his brother’s identity. Turkish security forces arrested him on Feb. 15 and extradited him to Iraq, the Times reported.
After weeks of interrogation, Ithawi was persuaded to contact several of his ISIS colleagues and lure them across the border, the newspaper reported.
Iraqi agents used the Telegram messaging app on Ithawi’s mobile phone to draw the others into the trap, Iraqi security adviser Hisham al-Hashimi told Reuters on Thursday.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Doug Stanglin