Iraqi security agencies have foiled a number of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) attacks in Baghdad and Anbar over the past period due to increasingly efficient intelligence work, officials tell Diyaruna.
Some of the attacks were set to target worshipers in Baghdad on Eid al-Adha and in the holy Month of Muharram, while others were to strike vital facilities in Anbar province.
In a September 15th pre-emptive operation in southern Baghdad, the General Intelligence Directorate arrested Ismail Shihab Hamad, head of ISIL's "southern province" units, the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
Hamad had been planning to carry out several terrorist operations in the capital during Eid al-Adha, the statement said.
Security forces arrested Hamad based on intelligence information during a raid in the town of al-Yusufiya in southern Baghdad, security adviser Fadel Abu Ragheef told Diyaruna.
The ISIL operative "comes from a family of radical terrorists who were initially loyal to al-Qaeda before pledging allegiance to ISIL", he said.
Iraqi intelligence knew of Hamad's history since his work in ISIL's intelligence units, followed by his promotion to security official and then military commander in the group, said Abu Ragheef.
"Prior to his arrest, the suspect was responsible for leading small terror cells tasked with patrolling Baghdad to carry out terror operations, bombings and assassinations to coincide with the holy Eid of al-Adha," he said.
Additional pre-emptive strikes
In another pre-emptive strike, the Intelligence Directorate nabbed a terror cell in Baghdad on September 24th and seized weapons and sticky bombs in its possession.
The members of the cell were planning to attack citizens in Baghdad during religious ceremonies in the holy Month of Muharram, when Shias commemorate the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussein, according to a statement by the Joint Operations Command.
Intelligence units also recently uncovered a plan to attack Haditha Dam in western Anbar, said tribal mobilisation leader Lt. Col. Nazim al-Jughaifi.
"Accurate intelligence information enabled Iraqi forces to destroy two ISIL gunmen convoys that intended to attack Haditha Dam's watchtowers," he told Diyaruna.
Iraqi fighter jets completely destroyed the first convoy of armed vehicles at a distance of around five kilometres from the target, while the second was destroyed at a distance of one kilometre, he said.
"The vehicles included heavy weapons and 23 mm and 14.5 mm calibre guns, which were all destroyed before reaching the dam area," he said, adding that "a real disaster" was prevented due to the Iraqi forces' vigilance.
Falcons intelligence unit
The bulk of Iraqi intelligence effort in confronting ISIL is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior's Falcons intelligence unit, security analysts told Diyaruna.
"The Falcons intelligence unit has been working tirelessly throughout the battles to liberate territory from ISIL," Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan said, noting that most of the strikes directed at Ramadi and Fallujah before their liberation were based on the unit's intelligence.
There is high co-ordination between the unit and the Joint Operations Command, Maan said, noting that the former processes the information and shares it with the command, which then uses it to strike at ISIL targets.
Most ISIL leaders in Baghdad have been arrested in ambushes based on information from the Falcons unit, he added.
"All these pre-emptive strikes have strongly derailed the group's capabilities and its plans on the ground," he said.