Mastermind of 2016 bombing that killed 300 arrested, Iraq says

Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of an unnamed neighbouring country.

Iraqi women wait to hear about family members who went missing after a bomb hit Karradah, a busy shopping district in the centre of Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)
Iraqi women wait to hear about family members who went missing after a bomb hit Karradah, a busy shopping district in the centre of Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Iraq said it has detained the mastermind behind a deadly 2016 bombing in a Baghdad shopping centre, which killed around 300 people and wounded 250.

The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of a neighbouring country they did not name.

He had been tracked by authorities for months.

They said al-Zobai was detained in an unidentified foreign country and transported to Iraq two days ago.

The 29-year-old al-Zobai was an al Qaida militant when he was imprisoned by the US in Iraq at Cropper prison until 2008, and then escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in 2013.

He joined the so-called Islamic State group after that.

People gather at the scene of a massive car bomb attack on a busy shopping district where people were shopping for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday, in the Karradah district of Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)
People gather at the scene of a massive car bomb attack on a busy shopping district where people were shopping for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday, in the Karradah district of Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)

The officials said al-Zobai plotted many attacks in Iraq, the most infamous of which was the 2016 bombing in Karrada in 2016.

He operated under the Alias Abu Obaida.

Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi tweeted news of the arrest later Monday, describing al-Zobai as the “primary culprit behind the Karrada atrocity and many others”.

At least 292 people died from the bombing, most of them from an ensuing fire that turned the Hadi shopping centre into an inferno.

The blaze was fed by a tinderbox of shops filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale and lined with flammable panels.

Al-Zobai’s arrest came in the second such operation conducted by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service since Iraq’s federal elections October 10.

Iraqi officials said they captured Sami Jasim, an IS leader last Monday in a similar operation abroad.

Jasim had a five million US dollar bounty on his head from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice programme, which describes him as having been “instrumental in managing finances for IS terrorist operations”.

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