Iraq captured five Islamic State commanders after its intelligence services lured them into crossing from neighboring Syria, Iraqi state TV reported Wednesday.
It described the five as “some of the most wanted” leaders of ISIS. They were named as Saddam al-Jammel, Mohamed al-Qadeer, Ismail al-Eithawi, Omar al-Karbouli and Essam al-Zawbai and were shown in yellow prisoner uniforms.
Al-Eithawi, a top aide to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was captured in February by Turkish authorities and handed over to Iraqi agents, a security advisor to the Iraqi government said on Thursday.
Iraqi agents then used the Telegram messaging app on his mobile phone to lure four commanders from the group to cross the border from Syria into Iraq and into a trap, security advisor Hisham al-Hashimi told Reuters on Thursday.
Hashimi said the operation was carried out in cooperation with U.S. forces, part of an American-led coalition fighting against Islamic State on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Following Eithawi’s capture, Iraqi and American intelligence agents were able to uncover bank accounts used by the group and also secret communication codes he used, Hashimi said.
Baghdadi, who declared himself ruler of all Muslims in 2014 after capturing Iraq’s main northern city Mosul, is now believed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border region after losing all the cities and towns of his self-proclaimed caliphate.
“The noose is tightening around him,” Hashimi said, referring to Baghdadi.
U.S. President Donald Trump later tweeted “Five Most Wanted leaders of ISIS just captured!”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last month he would “take all necessary measures” against militants based in Syria. The Iraqi air force has carried out several airstrikes since last year against ISIS positions in Syrian territory.
Abadi declared final victory last December over the group, which overran a third of Iraq in 2014. But the militants still pose a threat along the border with Syria and have continued to carry out ambushes, killings and bombings across Iraq.
There are some 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq training the country’s military.