Baghdad and the Belts. Red bordered units identified as active in offensive operations. Click map to view.
A status update on Operation Phantom Thunder
Iraqi and Coalition forces maintain the pressure against al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents, and the “rogue,” Iranian backed “secret cells” of the Mahdi Army and the Qazali network. Operation Phantom Thunder is underway inside Baghdad and the Belts, as well as against al Qaeda’s network nationwide. Also, the northwestern region of Iraq has been a focus of U.S. and Iraqi operations. The simultaneous operations to pressure al Qaeda’s network are occurring in all theaters throughout Iraq. An update on each theater is provided below.
Coalition forces continue strike at al Qaeda’s leadership cells. Multinational Forces Iraq confirmed two senior al Qaeda operatives were killed on June 23. “Mehmet Yilmaz, also known as Khalid al-Turki, was a known terrorist and senior leader in al Qaeda who operated a cell that facilitated the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq for al Qaeda operations,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Yilmaz was a global terrorist, with roots back to Pakistan. “Yilmaz was an al Qaeda leader who led a group of Turks to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight against Coalition Forces. Intelligence reports indicate he was wounded in the fighting there and went to Pakistan for treatment, where he was captured by the government in 2004 and deported to Turkey. He was released in late 2005 and returned to al Qaeda operations in 2006, moving his operations to Iraq.”
Coalition forces also killed Mehmet Resit Isik, also known as Khalil al-Turki. Isik was “a close associate of Yilmaz who was assessed to be a courier for the same al Qaeda cell and a close associate of Yilmaz and senior leaders within al Qaeda.”
Two al Qaeda operatives were killed and two captured in raids on Tuesday in Bayji, Mosul, and Baghdad . Wednesday’s raids in Mosul and Baghdad resulted in six al Qaeda operatives captured. One of those captured in Mosul “is believed to have replaced the al Qaeda emir of east Mosul after his capture May 31.” Al Qaeda’s Mosul network has become a focus of Coalition efforts of late. The network has regenerated since Ansar al-Sunnah merged with al Qaeda this spring.
Eleven days after Operation Arrowhead Ripper kicked off in the provincial capital of Baqubah Coalition and Iraqi forces have been conducting operations throughout the province. In Baqubah “at least 60 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 74 have been detained, 31 weapons caches have been discovered, 81 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 18 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed,” since the start of Arrowhead Ripper, Multinational Forces Iraq reported.
Coalition and Iraqi forces have also distributed “approximately 265,000 pounds of rice and flour … handed out over 10,000 vegetarian humanitarian rations, and thousands of bottles of water.” An al Qaeda warehouse “filled with food seized by al Qaeda from Government of Iraq food shipments to the city” was found by Iraqi troops in the Khatoon neighborhood.
A joint Iraqi and U.S. operation in Muqdadiyah and the Hamrin mountains resulted in the capture of 18 al Qaeda fighters, while Iraqi soldiers captured five al Qaeda operatives in an operation in nearby Balad Ruz. Two “gunmen” were killed during a raid near Al Thurah, north of Muqdadiyah. In Khalis, Iraqi Police intervened after two villages conducted a battle which resulted in four killed and 19 wounded.
The North (Mosul/Salahadin/Tikrit)
In addition to the operations in Diyala and the raids against al Qaeda’s network in Mosul, the northern theater has seen an increase in operational tempo from Iraqi and U.S. security forces. With operations ongoing inside Baghdad and in the belts, this region is the natural fall-back position for the terror network.
Iraqi Police and Army units are the main targets of al Qaeda and insurgent attacks in Salahadin and Ninewa provinces. There is one U.S. combat brigade in each province, and Ninewa is Iraq’s second most populated province. The Iraqi Security Forces shoulder the majority of the security in the north. Four Iraqi police were killed in an ambush near Kirkuk on Wednesday.
In the city of Taji in Salahadin province, the newly formed neighborhood watch turned in another large weapons cache. In Tikrit, fourteen insurgents died in a “work accident” when the truck bomb they were assembling detonated prematurely.
As part of Operation Phantom Thunder, Northern Babil Province has been split into two major theaters: the area around Arab Jabour (Operation Marne Torch) in the southeast, and the area around Mahmudiyah (Operation Commando Eagle) in the southwest.
In the southeast, six insurgents were killed near Salman Pak after about 30 attacked an Iraqi National Police station and checkpoint. A British Royal Air Force GR-4 Tornado and two U.S. Army OH-58D helicopters fired at the insurgents in support of the Iraqi nationals Police. Also, two more insurgents were killed and seven captured in the village of Al Dura’iya, and one insurgent was killed and another wounded “south of Baghdad.”
In the southwest, a recruiting drive in the city of Yusufiyah netted over 1,200 volunteers. Only 200 applicants were expected, and 252 were accepted. “The surplus applications – including one from a local woman – will be kept and as the JSS expands, those individuals will be the first called for new hires,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated. Further south in Najaf, Iraqi Security Forces arrested an al Qaeda operative.
Clearing operations continue in the capital as al Qaeda conducted two successful mass casualty attacks. A car bomb attack in the western Rashid neighborhood of Al-Bayaa killed 21 civilians and wounded 42, while a suicide attack in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad killed 10 and wounded 15.
U.S. and Iraqi forces are still in the process of clearing the Rashid district. Eleven IEDs were found in Rashid and several insurgent attacks were defeated on June 25 and 26. Iraqi Security Forces “killed 14 gunmen, captured 114 others and arrested 2 suspected militants in several areas of Baghdad during the past 24 hours,” Voices of Iraq reported. “The forces managed also to free three captives, defuse two bombs and confiscate large amount of weapons and ammunition in different areas of Baghdad, mainly in Kadhimiyah City in northern Baghdad.” U.S. forces also captured six insurgents in eastern Baghdad.
Eastern Anbar Province
Reporting on Operation Fahrad Al Amin in eastern Anbar province has been virtually non-existent. While Iraqi and Coalition forces have been solidifying the police presence in Fallujah and are conducting operations in Karma and the Thar Thar region, the eastern Anbar theater has surprisingly been quiet.
Mahdi and the Iranian Cells
Both the United States and Britain continue to point the finger at Iran and the Qods Force involvement in training, funding, arming, and planning attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces inside Iraq. Operations continue to target these Iranian backed secret cells, which include the Qazali Network and “rogue” elements of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
“Iraqi Special Operations Forces, Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army forces destroyed a large weapons cache during an early morning operation June 26 southeast of Nasiriyah,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “The cache is linked to a rogue Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM or Mahdi Army) militant group.” One suspect was detained in the operation.
Meanwhile, Muqtada al Sadr continues to attempt to brand himself as a nationalist leader since his return last month from a four-month, self-imposed exile in Iran. Sadr plans to carry out a march to Samarra’s al-Askaria mosque on July 5, which was destroyed in attacks in February 2006 and May 2007. Sadr’s past two demonstrations failed to draw more than ten thousand protesters, when in the past he would draw hundreds of thousands.