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Iraq captures ‘Most Wanted’ Islamic State finance chief

Iraqi intelligence have captured a top-level IS leader in a special operation that involved coordination with foreign countries. The US had offered $5 million for information that “brings him to justice”.
Sami Jassim Mohammed al-Jabouri shortly after his arrest.

BAGHDAD – Islamic State finance chief Sami Jassim Mohammed al-Jabouri’s head and chin are covered in black stubble as he stares squarely into the camera in a mug shot accompanying a US Rewards for Justice page offering $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

His hair and beard were instead long, bushy and white in photos taken after his arrest, which may have taken place on Sunday, judging by the Twitter announcement made by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

The day after Iraq held its fifth parliamentary elections since 2003 amid tight security and low turnout, the Iraqi Security Media Cell announced that Jabouri had been arrested in a “special operation outside the borders" of Iraq without naming where or what other country's intelligence services may have been involved.

The US has said Jabouri had been “instrumental in managing finances” for IS and had named him a specially designated global terrorist in September 2015.

Though no official announcement has been made on where he was arrested, Iraqi security expert Fadhil Abu Ragheef told this journalist that he had been captured in Turkey and noted in a tweet that Jabouri had been “lured into a trap” after having been followed for months by the intelligence service.

Dressed in a checkered button-down, light navy-blue jacket and a quilted black cap as he was accompanied by Iraqi security in the first photos sent to Al-Monitor by an intelligence source, Jabouri was later seen in photos and a video in a yellow prisoner outfit as he was led blindfolded down a military aircraft ramp.

Jabouri had been close to both the former IS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the current one, Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, a Turkman from Tal Afar with family members in Turkey better known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.

Baghdadi reportedly blew himself up after being cornered by the United States during an Oct. 26, 2019 raid in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. IS confirmed his death a few days later and named the current chief. Iraqi intelligence had coordinated with the US on that operation and had reportedly followed the former IS chief “in indirect ways through his family”.

An Iraqi intelligence source who asked to remain unnamed told Al-Monitor that Jabouri was born in 1974 and is married with three children. However, during the years IS controlled large swaths of land between Iraq and Syria, he had also “owned” three Yazidi women he kept as slaves. It is unclear where these women are now.

The same source noted that Jabouri in 2004 pledged allegiance to an extremist group widely seen as a predecessor to IS led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in October 2004.

The source added that Jabouri has been known by several nicknames including Abu Asia, Haji Hamid, and Abu Abdul Qadir Al-Zubaidi, and that he had been arrested by the US forces in 2005 but upon his release became security chief for the Hejel village in northern Salahhuddin as well as the nearby Zab and Makhmour districts. Following the IS takeover of Mosul in June 2014, Jabouri became security chief for Wilayat Dijlah and later the deputy governor for that IS province.

He later went to Syria and became Baghdadi’s finance chief, the source said, and after Baghdadi’s death, Jabouri continued to manage IS finances and worked closely with the new “caliph,” Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi.

Iraqi security analyst Ragheef told Al-Monitor that Jabouri had been born in 1973 instead of 1974, in Shirqat, and that he had pledged allegiance to Zarqawi earlier: in August 2003 instead of 2004, also in Shirqat in the northern part of the Salahhuddin province.

The town is split by into two parts by the Tigris River and has long been known as a hotbed for insurgent activities and extremism. The eastern bank was one of the last to be retaken from IS by Iraqi forces in 2017 and was still under IS control for months after victory against IS in Mosul was declared in early July of that year. But cells continue to operate throughout the country as well as in areas of  Syria, where it was territorially defeated in early 2019.

This journalist reported from front lines in Shirqat in mid-July 2017, when IS had managed to retake some areas and cut a key highway between Qayyarah, where a base then hosting US troops is located, and Shirqat.

Ragheef said Jabouri had met in person with Zarqawi in Shirqat after his 2003 pledge of allegiance and that he had commanded a group of around 10 people on the eastern bank of the Tigris who were “trained ideologically” by Abu Anas al-Shami.

Shami was reportedly killed in a US airstrike west of Baghdad in September 2004, and Zarqawi in June 2006 some 50 km northeast of Baghdad in the Diyala province.

Jabouri, the security analyst noted, used his years in the Bucca prison (he said the IS leader had been released in 2011) to study creating theories and persuasion techniques, and that, after his release, he had met IS chief Baghdadi in the al-Baaj district of western Nineveh province.

During their meeting, Ragheef said, Baghdadi had allegedly been “impressed by his charisma, style, planning skills, and rhetoric” and grew close to him.

Ragheef said Jabouri coordinated for a period between “corrupt, influential” people in the government and the IS "caliphate" and that several of his brothers have held key roles in IS in the southern part of the Nineveh province and the northern part of Salahhuddin, where Shirqat is located.

At the time of his arrest, Jabouri was one of only a few highly sought IS commanders for which the US was offering a reward. There is one of $10 million for the current IS chief.

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