Operations in Kirkuk, Diyala and Diwaniyah
Three large counterinsurgency operations are occurring across Iraq
Iraqi and U.S. forces are on the offensive against the insurgency and al Qaeda outside of Operation Together Forward in Baghdad. Three large scale counterinsurgency operations are under way in Diwaniyah, Diyala and Kirkuk. In Diwaniyah, the target continues to be Sadr's Madhi Army. In Kirkuk and Diyala, al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency are the focus of operations.
Over thirty "terrorists" were killed after a joint Iraqi and U.S. team raided the home of Kifah al-Greiti, "a Mahdi Army commander in the city", according to Iraqi Army Capt. Fatiq Ayed. Multinational Forces Iraq states the forces "detained a high-value target" (likely al-Greiti) after a major clash with the Madhi Army. "An M1A2 Abrams Tank was struck by multiple RPG rounds and was severely damaged," reports MNF-Iraq, indicating the seriousness of the fighting. No Iraqi or Coalition forces casualties were reported. This was another one-sided battle that will give Sadr's Madhi Army a black eye in the region.
The clash in Diwaniyah is the latest in a series of operations designed to undercut Sadr's support base outside of Baghdad. Sadr's lieutenants are being intentionally targeted to force Sadr to a decision point - either abandon the militias or confront the government.
Last week Iraqi Army units and Coalition forces conducted a major sweep of Diyala province, which is a strong hold of Baathist insurgent groups and Ansar al-Sunnah. Over 250 insurgents and al Qaeda were detained in last week's sweeps. The operations are still ongoing. Two al Qaeda were killed and 16 arrested in the latest round of sweeps. Fourty suspected insurgents were also detained. Three more insurgents were detained in Baqubah /a> and a large weapons cache was discovered. The Iraqi Army has recently took control over northern Diyala.
A major operation is being conducted by Iraqi and U.S. troops in the flashpoint city of Kirkuk. An open ended curfew has been instituted. "These operations are the first of their kind in Kirkuk, with more than 14,000 police and soldiers supported by US helicopters," said Captain Emad Jassim Khidr of the Kirkuk police. This is a major commitment of resources, given that Coalition commanders have called for over 3,000 additional Iraqi troops in Baghdad, and an Iraqi National Police brigade was pulled off the line in the city. Sadr has sent two companies of the Madhi Army in Kirkuk over the spring.