Iraqi security sources have arrested 66 members of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq network as they were planning attacks against Shia Muslims marking Arbaeen, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH).
On Sunday, Staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi, head of Al-Furat al-Awsat operations command said that the terrorists were rounded up during sweep operations in the central province of Karbala, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported.
He added that Iraqi police had also seized various kinds of weapons and munitions in the operations.
Ghanimi further noted that 35,000 security soldiers have been deployed to Karbala city, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad to provide security for people taking part in Arbaeen ceremonies for Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, scheduled for January 3.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a shadowy group that was once allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was reportedly killed in June 2006.
According to US government and military officials, the group was then led by Ayyub al-Masri, who was killed along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi — another leader of the group — in a joint Iraqi-US operation in Salahuddin Province in April 2010.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country since the US-led invasion in March 2003.