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Key arrests tighten noose around Islamic State's Baghdadi

Iraq's capture of five key members of the Islamic State organization will assist the Iraqi intelligence service in destroying the organization and preventing its emergence in a new form.

BAGHDAD — The arrest of five key members of the Islamic State (IS) points to a steady encroachment on territory still held by the extremist group and a tightening of the noose around its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Four members were reportedly captured near their home areas straddling the Syrian-Iraqi border. The two Syrians arrested had apparently not been involved with any of IS' precursors, while at least one of the three Iraqis reportedly had a lengthy history with Jamaat al-Tawhid wal Jihad.

Questions remain regarding exactly how and when the men were detained, with media reports and official statements providing conflicting accounts. Their capture alive is nevertheless a boon for intelligence agencies, as cross-border airstrikes have been stepped up on the few areas still under IS control in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province. The area is roughly divided by the Euphrates River into international coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) territory north and east of the waterway and Syrian regime and allied militias south and west of it, with the most sizable IS enclaves in SDF-held areas.

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