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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Donald Trump lauds capture of five top ISIS commanders

Iraqi security services lured them into crossing from Syria

The five ISIS commanders, one Iraqi and one Syria, were in control of governance for the extremists in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, as well as internal security and overseeing religious rulings. AP Photo
The five ISIS commanders, one Iraqi and one Syria, were in control of governance for the extremists in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, as well as internal security and overseeing religious rulings. AP Photo

US president Donald Trump has confirmed that five "most wanted" ISIS commanders have been captured, in an apparent reference to the leaders of the group recently detained in Iraq.

"Five Most Wanted leaders of ISIS just captured!" he tweeted, without providing further details.

His tweet came after Iraqi officials confirmed the results of the three-month cross-border operation.

Their capture represents a major strategic victory for the US-led coalition and the government in Baghdad, which is anticipating a key election at the weekend. They have focused on tracking, locating and detaining top ISIS leaders to not only hamper the group but to lead them to greater arrests.

The five commanders, one Iraqi and one Syria, were in control of governance for ISIS in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, as well as internal security and overseeing religious rulings.

The five men are not believed to include ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

This file image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance. The Islamic State group released on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 a purported audio recording from top leader al-Baghdadi. Militant video via AP
This file image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance. The Islamic State group released on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 a purported audio recording from top leader al-Baghdadi. Militant video via AP

Iraqi intelligence operatives lured the men into Iraq after capturing a top aide to Al Baghdadi in February and using an app on his mobile phone.

Ismail Al Eithawi, who also uses the alias Abu Zaid Al Iraqi, was captured in February in Turkey by Turkish authorities and handed over to Iraqi agents.

Iraqi agents used the Telegram messaging app on Eithawi's mobile phone to lure other Islamic State commanders to cross the border from Syria into Iraq, where they were captured, Hashimi said. Those held include Saddam Jamal, a Syrian who served as the group's governor of Syria's eastern Euphrates region.

The operation was carried out in coordination with American forces.

The hunt for Baghdadi, one of the most wanted men in the world, has spanned eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.

American and Iraqi officials believe him to be hiding out close to the Iraqi-Syrian shared border.

The US state department has placed a bounty on his head of $25 million for any information leading to his arrest or death.

ISIS has lost all of the cities and towns in Iraq that it once possessed after overrunning large swathes of territory in mid-2014.

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory against the group in December 2017 but last month militants restated their loyalty to Baghdadi, in what is believed to be their first public pledge of allegiance to him since his self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq collapsed last year.