Kurdistan Region announces it arrested ISIS cell planning attack on Erbil

Security forces of the autonomous Kurdistan Region carry out an anti-Islamic State raid. (Photo: KRSC)
Security forces of the autonomous Kurdistan Region carry out an anti-Islamic State raid. (Photo: KRSC)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A top-level security council in the autonomous Kurdistan Region announced on Monday that its security forces had dismantled and arrested members of an Islamic State network that it said received orders from the extremist organization's leadership to carry out terrorist attacks, including at least one in the capital.

"With the continuous efforts of the institutions of the Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) aimed at thwarting terrorist plots against Kurdistan, our institutions have reached information that the caliph of the terrorist organization ISIS – Haji Abdullah – ordered the launching of terrorist acts through this cell," read a KRSC statement accompanying video footage of the operation and suspects' confessions

"Haji Abdullah ordered both Harith, who is the [Islamic State's] governor of the North (Kurdistan), and Abu Walid, the security emir of the State of Syria, to carry out the attack," it read, adding that all members of the cell had been arrested "in a successful operation."

"The terrorists admitted that they were planning to carry out attacks by planting explosive devices and using pistols equipped with silencers," continued the statement. 

The KRSC went on to explain that its investigations concluded that two members of the cell were not able to enter Kurdistan directly at the beginning of February, so they illegally infiltrated Syria's borders to then cross into Turkey and then to Iran, and from thereto entered the Kurdistan Region's border town of Rania and then to Erbil.

The statement named the suspects as "Yasser Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Ammar, Majed Hassan Saleh, known as Ali, Hassan Ali Anizan, known as Saud, Firas Hassan Hamoudi, and Mukhlid Ibrahim Muhammad."

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, who formerly ran the KRSC, released a statement later in the day that read, "Our brave security forces have successfully foiled an ISIS terror plot in Erbil following a months-long operation. The cell — organized and directed from Syria — has been dismantled and its members are now in custody as the investigation continues."

"I am deeply concerned," he warned, "that our intelligence points to ISIS operating from the Al Hol camp, indicating the group is still capable of crossing borders illegally."

Read More: Prominent ISIS member captured in al-Hol camp in Syria

Barzani called on the "global coalition and our partners to recognize the seriousness of this threat, both here and abroad, to peace and stability."

“I want to reassure our people and visitors to Kurdistan of their continued safety. Our security services work around the clock to protect every community from terrorism and violence," the leader concluded.

"I commend the swift and determined action of our forces — their selfless commitment makes us one of the safest places in the Middle East."

Editing by John J. Catherine