Iraqi security forces have arrested an Al Qaeda operative suspected of recruiting women to carry out suicide attacks, the U.S. military and Iraqi security officials said Saturday.

Mohammed Shaker Mahmoud, 30, was detained Thursday evening at his home in the former al Qaeda stronghold of Al-Mukhaissah village in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, an Iraqi military official said on condition of anonymity.

"ISF (Iraqi security forces) believe the suspect is responsible for planning female suicide bombing attacks on Iraqi citizens," the U.S. military said in a statement.

"Intelligence reports indicate the cell recruits female suicide bombers, including women with mental illness. The cell is also believed responsible for making and distributing suicide belts."

The statement said the cell was linked to attacks during Shiite religious commemoration of Ashura in December, as well as suicide bombings at a rest station in Bub al-Sham outside Baghdad and in the Iraqi capital.

On February 1, a female suicide bomber blew herself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims on their way by foot to the holy shrine city of Karbala in central Iraq, killing 41 people including women and children.