Iraq’s ‘Falcon Cell’ chief eliminated amid accusations of suspicious hyperlinks

Feb 23, 2021

BAGHDAD — An enormous double suicide assault within the Iraqi capital Jan. 21 was adopted by the elimination of a number of high-ranking intelligence and Inside Ministry officers.

One, specifically, stood out: the alternative of the person who had led Iraq’s super-secretive Falcon Intelligence Cell since its inception, generally known as Abu Ali al-Basri.

His actual title had, previous to the announcement of his elimination, not been reported within the media for safety causes.

The Falcon Intelligence Cell, which solutions to the Inside Ministry, had lengthy been run primarily by Basri, who in earlier conferences had informed Al-Monitor that he had been the primary individual behind the founding of the super-secretive spy unit. Among the many nations the intelligence unit has collaborated with are america and the UK.

When requested by Al-Monitor in late January to touch upon the explanation for his elimination, Basri mentioned there “had not been any main assaults in Baghdad for 3 years,” indicating that this confirmed the success of his work. The final suicide assault within the capital previous to the one in January had occurred in the identical sq. in 2018.

Basri had been within the place for over a decade, because the institution of the unit, and can retain a place throughout the Inside Ministry. He and the unit had been extensively praised in earlier years for his or her work. He mentioned he was not approved to remark additional.

One report claimed that the explanation for his elimination was his alleged proximity to Iran-based militias, saying the Falcons Cell had been “one of many Iranian-backed factions most-prized property in Iraq.”

However a senior Iraqi authorities official informed this journalist Feb. 18 that Basri was believed to have been “protecting” for 4 people in reference to the deaths of activists and journalists. The 4 had been arrested Feb. 15 in Basra.

A detailed affiliate of Basri’s had harassed to Al-Monitor in a dialog within the Iraqi capital in January that the previous Falcon Cell chief was identified in earlier years for being “the one one who may say no” to Nouri al-Maliki when he was prime minister and that Basri was extensively revered by many sides in Iraq.

Maliki, chief of the Shiite Dawa occasion and prime minister from 2006-2014, has been blamed by some for inciting sectarian tensions over time.

This journalist had interviewed Basri twice beforehand in Baghdad, in July 2019 and February 2020. In individual, Basri got here throughout as sharply clever and humble. He traveled with out safety guards as a part of his efforts to retain a low profile, he had mentioned on the time.

Within the first interview he spoke concerning the unit’s operations in opposition to al-Qaeda after which the Islamic State (IS), together with a joint cross-border operation with the Iraqi air power the place he mentioned IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had allegedly been injured within the metropolis of Hejin in Syria’s japanese Deir al-Zor area.

Within the July 2019 interview, Basri additionally mentioned the coaching his males obtained from overseas and the coaching that they in flip supplied to different nations, given the wealth of expertise combating terrorism that they had gained in Iraq. Although declining to enter specifics about collaboration with international intelligence businesses, he mentioned that his unit didn’t have any direct contact with the Syrian authorities however that there was a “four-member operations room” in Baghdad at the moment involving Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia by means of which info wanted to avoid wasting lives was channeled.

The Falcon Cell gained worldwide consideration following a prolonged New York Instances article in August 2018 by Margaret Coker on an IS infiltrator killed within the line of responsibility, Harith al-Sudani. The article led to the granting of advantages linked to his loss of life to his household despite the fact that the person’s physique was by no means discovered.

A e-book on the Falcon Cell and its chief written by Coker is due out in america later this month.

Throughout Coker’s time because the Instances’ Baghdad bureau chief, the paper was despatched a video of 5 Syrian and Iraqi IS commanders caught by the Falcon Cell in a fancy operation between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Al-Monitor additionally reported on the video and the identities of these arrested at the moment. This journalist had met one of many Syrian commanders in 2012 previous to his becoming a member of IS.

In newer years, Basri had spoken to extra media retailers every now and then. The previous Falcon Cell chief holds a European passport along with his Iraqi one and his household is overseas for safety causes.

Final 12 months, Basri expressed to Al-Monitor the need to increase the unit’s operations to incorporate putting on the funding of terrorism by means of corruption. He mentioned the Falcon Cell may very well be used as a mannequin for the same unit to focus solely on corruption or may itself be employed to crack down on it.

Basri additionally mentioned he thought the unit’s expertise in intelligence gathering may very well be helpful to cease the scourge of the sexual harassment and blackmailing of “Iraq’s daughters” that had turn out to be so widespread in recent times.

In Could 2020, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was sworn in, he pledged to attempt to carry all arms below state management.

Extra absolutely centralizing the huge array of intelligence businesses within the nation’s numerous ministries and departments could also be one more try and work towards this purpose.

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