Iraqi security forces on Wednesday arrested the head of Ansar al-Sunna, a Sunni insurgent group said to be linked to Al-Qaeda, the counter-terrorism chief for Anbar province said.
“Iraqi forces today arrested the leader of Ansar al-Sunna, Walid Khaled Ali, as he tried to illegally infiltrate into Iraqi territory from Syria,” Brigadier General Khaled al-Dulaimi told AFP.
He “tried to cross on foot near Al-Walid border post” into Anbar province in western Iraq, Dulaimi said.
He “was one of the most prominent suspects for terrorism cases,” Dulaimi said, adding that “he killed many of the sons of Anbar and fled to Syria after the announcement of the tribal fight against Al-Qaeda in 2007.”
Sunni tribesmen joined forces with the US military against Al-Qaeda from late 2006, helping to turn the tide of the insurgency.
Ansar al-Sunna is an ultra-conservative Sunni Salafist group that has claimed several attacks against US and Iraqi security forces. It is an offshoot of the Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam.
Dulaimi said the group is part of the Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda’s front organisation here.
Iraq’s interior ministry meanwhile said on Monday its forces had fended off “smugglers and infiltrators” trying to cross the border from Syria.
“Border guards were able to fend off groups of smugglers and infiltrators who were trying to cross the border from Syria into Iraq,” a statement on the ministry’s website said, without specifying when this occurred.
The Iraqi premier’s office said on Saturday that Iraq is taking measures to secure its border with Syria against weapons smuggling and the unauthorised movement of people.
US spy chief James Clapper said last week that Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq was probably behind recent suicide bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second city.
His comments confirmed earlier reports that US officials suspected the terror network’s hand in the bombings, and supported repeated claims by Damascus about Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the uprising 11-month uprising.