BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials said Thursday they have detained the mastermind behind a string of bombings last year that targeted key government facilities in Baghdad.
The disclosure of the March 11 arrest of Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi, the alleged Baghdad leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, came a day after U.S. military officials said the organization's top leader in the volatile northern city of Mosul, Ahmad Ali Abbas Dahir al-Ubayd, had been killed in a raid.
The news of Rawi's arrest and Ubayd's slaying are the latest blows to the Sunni insurgent group. The organization's top two national leaders were killed last weekend in a U.S. airstrike in northern Iraq.
Rawi coordinated the bombings of the Foreign, Justice, Finance and other ministries in August and October, Iraqi officials said Thursday. In Mosul, Ubayd oversaw kidnapping and bribery rings that al-Qaida in Iraq is said to have operated to finance attacks.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said the operations against the network have peeled off some of its most dogmatic leaders. The military says "ideologues" are the backbone of the organization, characterizing its other members as "opportunists" and "nationalists."
"This really does degrade their abilities at the ideologue level," Lanza said.
He said U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officers are sifting through evidence collected after the Saturday night airstrike on the outskirts of Tikrit that resulted in the deaths of top leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
The operations against al-Qaida in Iraq have come at an opportune time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to keep his job after disputed parliamentary elections in March.
But Maliki's administration also drew unwelcome scrutiny this week after the disclosure that a military unit under his command operated a secret prison in Baghdad where hundreds of Sunni Arab men arrested in the northern province of Nineveh last year were held incommunicado and in some cases tortured.
The government has said it is investigating the allegations, first reported Monday in the Los Angeles Times.