Iraqi PM says senior ISIS leader killed near Baghdad

Killing came hours after security forces announce arrest of would-be suicide bomber in Baghdad

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi speaks during a news conference in Basra, Iraq, July 15, 2020. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Pool via REUTERS
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The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, announced late on Tuesday that a senior ISIS leader had been killed, the second in less than a week.

He was killed during a continuing military operation to hunt down the group’s remnants after dozens of civilians were murdered in a double suicide attack in Baghdad.

Mr Al Kadhimi tweeted that the slain leader was Abu Hassan Al Gharibawi, who was in charge of ISIS operations in southern Iraq.

He said security troops also killed Ghanem Sabah Jawad, who was in charge of transporting suicide bombers, and other militants.

Last month's suicide attack was the first in Baghdad since January 2018, a month after Iraqis declared victory over ISIS following more than three years of fierce fighting.

Two suicide bombers ripped through a bustling outdoor market in central Baghdad frequented by mainly poor people seeking second-hand clothes and goods.

The first bomber pretended to be ill, gathering a crowd of people trying to help before setting off his explosives.

When people rushed to help the wounded, the second man blew himself up.

They killed 32 civilians and injured more than 100. Shortly after the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility, saying it was focused on killing Shiites.

"These victories are part of our heroes’ pledge to eliminate the leaders of Daesh gangs and in loyalty to the Iraqi martyrs’ blood," Mr Al Kadhimi said.

"Our security forces have made us proud. Long live Iraq."

A senior security official said the killing took place in Al Zeidan area of Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib.

The US-led international coalition against ISIS provided air strikes.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Iraqi National Security service said it had foiled an attack in Baghdad after arresting a would-be suicide bomber.

The service identified the arrested ISIS militant as “inghimasi”, which refers to a special forces-style fighter who attacks with small arms before blowing himself up.

It said he had planned an attack inside Baghdad.

In a video published with the statement, masked Iraqi security forces are seen carrying out a night raid, breaking into one house and arrested at least one man.

The government aired parts of a video recorded for the young militant, believed to be in his twenties, as he was promising to attack Shiites in Baghdad, while holding the trigger in his right hand.

ISIS usually publishes videos for its suicide bombers after carrying out their attacks.

At the end of the video the young man, with a shaved head and handcuffed in a prison yellow uniform, confessed to the camera. Next to him was an explosives vest.

He gave his nickname as Abu Aysha, saying he was brought from the eastern province of Diyala to Bagdad.

Days after last month's suicide attack, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and other security forces launched operations in remote areas, mainly in northern Iraq, to hunt down ISIS remnants.

Last week, backed by air strikes from the coalition, Iraqi security troops killed the leader of the group in Iraq and its "deputy caliph", Abu Yaser Al Issawi.

The operation took place in the Wadi Al Shai area, south of the northern city of Kirkuk, on Wednesday where at least 10 ISIS militants were killed.

To ease public anger, Iraqi President Barham Salih ratified 340 death sentences for people convicted of terrorism and criminal charges. Three Iraqis convicted of terrorism were hanged.

The Baghdad attacks came during at a sensitive time as Iraqis prepare for national elections in October amid a planned withdrawal of US troops from the country.