Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service on Monday (November 23rd) announced it had arrested the so-called general administrative co-ordinator of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) after his arrival at Baghdad airport.
The man, known as "Abu Naba", was detained in October as he was "getting into a taxi, just after landing in Baghdad", said CTS spokesman Sabah al-Noman.
Describing him as a "major target", al-Noman said Abu Naba had been steering financial support to ISIS, organising meetings and relaying messages between ISIS elements.
Abu Naba began his extremist path in 2003 "with al-Qaeda, before joining various groups that eventually led to ISIS", the spokesman said.
But al-Noman declined to reveal Abu Naba's real name, where he had been flying in from and how he managed to cross through airport security before he was apprehended.
In a social media post announcing the arrest, Iraq's military spokesman Yahya Rasul credited the CTS operation's success to "constant follow-up and field work".
It was the first operation of its kind at Baghdad International Airport, he said, and was staged with "complete secrecy and brilliant success".
CTS intelligence had "carefully tracked" Abu Naba as he travelled from an unnamed country until he arrived in Iraq, Rasul said.
He said Abu Naba had been tasked with forming ISIS cells carrying out various functions within Baghdad province, and had been intending to hold a meeting of ISIS leaders on the outskirts of Baghdad upon his arrival.
Under Iraqi surveillance
In 2014, ISIS seized a third of Iraqi territory, which local troops backed by the international coalition recaptured in late 2017. In 2019, ISIS lost its last foothold in neighbouring Syria.
ISIS sleeper cells have continued to wage hit-and-run attacks, including one north of Baghdad late Saturday that killed six security forces and four civilians.
They also have continued to transfer funds and personnel across Iraqi territory, Iraqi and Western officials say.
"Abu Naba had been in contact with remaining members of ISIS in Iraq, and we were monitoring their conversations for a long time," al-Noman said.
Since his arrest, Abu Naba has remained in Iraqi custody and is being interrogated.
Al-Noman said he would be tried under Iraq's counter-terror law, which carries the death penalty for "membership in a terrorist organisation".