Iraq on Monday said it has detained the ISIS mastermind behind the deadly attack on a Baghdad shopping centre in 2016, which killed at least 300 people and wounded hundreds of others.
The suicide truck bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the Iraqi man identified as Ghazwan Al Zobai was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the co-operation of a neighbouring country they did not name. He had been tracked by authorities for months.
They told the Associated Press that Al Zobai was detained abroad and transported to Iraq two days ago. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak of the operation on the record.
The 29-year-old Al Zobai was an Al Qaeda militant when he was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq at Cropper prison until 2008, and then escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in 2013. He joined ISIS after that.
The officials said Al Zobai plotted many attacks in Iraq, the most notorious of which was the 2016 bombing in Karrada in 2016. He operated under the alias Abu Obaida.
At least 292 people died in the bombing, most of them from an ensuing fire that turned the Hadi shopping centre into an inferno. The blaze was fed by a tinderbox of shops filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale, and lined with flammable panels.
Al Zobai’s arrest came in the second such operation conducted by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service since Iraq’s federal elections on October 10.
Iraqi officials said they captured Sami Jasim, an ISIS financier, last Monday, in a similar operation abroad.
Jasim had a $5 million bounty on his head from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice programme, which describes him as having been “instrumental in managing finances for ISIS terrorist operations”.