The brilliant operation, which took three months for the U.S.-Iraqi coalition to execute, started with the capture of Alwaan al-Ithawi, an Iraqi known by the nom de guerre Abu Zeid al-Iraqi, whom Iraqis say is a top aide to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An Iraqi intelligence unit tracked al-Ithawi from Syria to the Turkish city of Sakarya. The Iraqis procured an intelligence file on al-Ithawi from the Turks; Turkish security forces arrested him February 15, then extradited him to Iraq.
After al-Ithawi had been interrogated for weeks by Iraqi and American intelligence officials who garnered information including the details and locations of other ISIS leaders, the U.S.-led coalition launched an airstrike in mid-April that killed 39 suspected ISIS members near Hajin, in the Deir el-Zour district.
Following the airstrike, Ithawi contacted several of his ISIS colleagues who had been hiding in Syria and induced them to cross the border.
The five ISIS leaders captured, who were reportedly governing ISIS’ territory around Deir el-Zour, were Saddam al-Jammel, a Syrian who was the head of the ISIS territory around Deir el-Zour; Abu Abdel al-Haq, an Iraqi who had been the head of internal security for the group, and three others: Omar Shahab Al-Karbouli, Issam Al-Zawba’ie and Mohammed Al-Qadir.
President Trump lauded the capture on Twitter: