Al Qaeda strikes in Iraq's North


Al Qaeda in Iraq's area of operations as of December 2007. Dark red indicates operating areas, light red is transit routes. Mosul remains a hot spot, with the only ratline to Syria in operation. Click to view.

The northern city of Mosul has been racked with violence the past two days as al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq has stepped up terror activities in the city. Two major bombings in Mosul have claimed dozens killed, including Ninewa province's police chief, and more than 100 wounded.

The major activity began on Jan. 23, when Iraqi troops raided a suspected weapons factory and storage site in a residential neighborhood. Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated the building with pre-positioned explosives, killing 34 Iraqis and wounding another 135. Most of those killed and wounded were in adjacent buildings that collapsed in the explosion.

The following day, a suicide bomber targeted the site of the blast as the rescue and recovery team was pulling survivors from the rubble. Brigadier Salih Hassan, the Ninewa province chief of police, was killed in the attack. The provincial governor declared a curfew shortly after the suicide bombing.

The suicide bomber was dressed like an Iraqi policeman, a senior US military officer serving in Mosul told The Long War Journal. The officer requested his name not be used due to the sensitivity of his position. The site was targeted because it is a "magnet for VIPs."

The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda's front organization created by Abu Ayyub al Masri, is behind the attacks, the officer said. The person who told police there was a weapons cache in the building "is definitely [with] Islamic State of Iraq." It is not clear whether the person, who is in police custody, knew the building was rigged to explode. After the weapons factory was destroyed, the Islamic State of Iraq spread a rumor that US forces were responsible for blowing up the buildings. The suicide attack on Salih, the police chief, is a signature al Qaeda strike.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to re-establish its networks in Mosul after being ejected from Baghdad and the belts last fall. US forces are currently pressuring al Qaeda's havens in Diyala and the Arab Jabour region.

The US officer serving in Mosul attributes the recent upsurge in violence in Mosul on two factors: the recent deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and stepped up operations, and pressure on al Qaeda's network throughout the country. "All of the leakers from Baghdad and Diyala had to go somewhere," the officer said.

At the end of December 2007, Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated in Ninewa province when its financial network took a hit. "Al Qaeda suffered a fund shortage and posed no big danger in Ninewa after the killing and arresting of a number of its financiers [by US and Iraqi forces]," Hertling said in an interview with Voices of Iraq. "The armed groups activating in the provinces worked without funds, after their field financiers escaped with money, causing a splinter in the organization."

Al Qaeda still is able to operate in Mosul, and al Qaeda maintains its only established supply line to Syria in the Mosul region, according to a December 2007 Multinational Forces Iraq assessment of the terror group's area of operations.



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda strikes in Iraq's North"

Posted by Marlin at January 25, 2008 8:25 AM ET:

This is certainly what needs to happen. I hope the Iraqi government, with Coalition Forces support, can actually accomplish the task.

Iraq's prime minister announced Friday that the government was launching a major offensive against al-Qaida in the northern city of Mosul after two days of deadly bombings that killed nearly 40 people.

He promised the fight "will be decisive."

[...]

He did not say how many troops were being sent or provide more details in his wide-ranging speech, an apparent attempt to show his beleaguered administration was assuming control of the situation in Mosul with the U.S. military in the background.

Residents reported no immediate sign of stepped up security in the area and it was unclear when the offensive would begin.

Associated Press: Iraq to Go After al-Qaida in Mosul


Posted by Lokki at January 25, 2008 9:59 AM ET:

Although the loss of life is horrific, the circumstances are "good". The deaths were not as a result of a planned action by al Qaeda, but the result of a defensive action taken during retreat. The second bombing was a reactive strike at a target of opportunity rather than an offensive action.

These are good signs. They've lost a weapons factory and stores.... and gotten some negative press in the process.

Posted by David m at January 25, 2008 11:36 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/25/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by mjr007 at January 25, 2008 11:45 AM ET:

[quote][i]"Iraqi troops raided a suspected weapons factory and storage site in a residential neighborhood. Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated the building with pre-positioned explosives, killing 34 Iraqis and wounding another 135. Most of those killed and wounded were in adjacent buildings that collapsed in the explosion."[/i][/quote]

and....

[quote]"The following day, a suicide bomber targeted the site of the blast as the rescue and recovery team was pulling survivors from the rubble. Brigadier Salih Hassan, the Ninewa province chief of police, was killed in the attack. The provincial governor declared a curfew shortly after the suicide bombing.

The suicide bomber was dressed like an Iraqi policeman, a senior US military officer serving in Mosul told The Long War Journal. The officer requested his name not be used due to the sensitivity of his position. The site was targeted because it is a "magnet for VIPs.""[/quote]

I am a little confused here. Iraqi troops raided a suspected weapons factory and storage site which AQI had booby trapped with explosives and detonated killing 34 Iraqis.

My question is why is a weapons factory and storage site considered a "VIP magnet?"


Posted by Bill Roggio at January 25, 2008 11:47 AM ET:

mjr007, the recovery operation is the VIP magnet.

Posted by mjr007 at January 25, 2008 12:28 PM ET:

Thanks, Bill. I love your reporting. It's the kind of play by play we don't get from the MSM.

Thanks again for the clarification.

Posted by Neo at January 25, 2008 12:46 PM ET:

The bombing was near a former Pepsi bottling plant in the Zanjili neighborhood, a poor district in South West Mosul. There are a couple of poor neighborhoods in the vicinity of FOB Marez that have been a continuous problem. I'm not exactly sure which of these neighborhoods this is.

Posted by Turner at January 25, 2008 12:56 PM ET:

The proximity to Syria is the thing. Uda and Kouse, Saddam's kids, hid out in Mosul for the same reason. It's a place to run to/from and before the war the high level baathists converted hard currency to tradeable items. Some of that wealth and financing, no doubt, lingers in Syria. Perhaps when they get Al Douri, they'll be able to sever that thread.

Posted by Marlin at January 26, 2008 11:17 AM ET:

This is an interesting development to the al-Qaeda/Mosul story that I never expected.

A devastating explosion in northern Iraq was spearheaded by foreign fighters under the sponsorship of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, a security chief for Sunni tribesmen who rose up against al-Qaida in Iraq said Saturday.

Col. Jubair Rashid Naief, who also is a police official in Anbar province, said the Anbar Awakening Council had alerted the U.S. military to the possible arrival in the northern city of Mosul of the Seifaddin Regiment, made up of about 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters, as long as three months ago.

a href="http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080126/D8UDK5MO0.html">Associated Press: Gadhafi Son May Be Linked to Iraq Attack

Posted by anand at January 29, 2008 12:55 AM ET:

Staff Brig Gen Moutaa Habeeb Jassim Jewab (who MND-N Commanding MG Hertling has described as amazingly charismatic) and his 2nd Iraqi Army Division are going to smash AQ in Mosul.

After all, he has done it before:
http://www.blackanthem.com/News/Allies_20/Al-Qaeda_emir_of_Mosul_shot_killed_by_ISF9065.shtml

Go Moutaa! Go the 2nd Iraqi Army Division!

Posted by anand at January 31, 2008 1:41 AM ET:

Baxter Greene, PM Maliki announced it publically for his own reasons. He has a right to do so.

It looks like part of IA 2-9 Armored (T72 tanks) is headed to Mosul. mxpwr03, IA 2-9 has a C2 near C1 brigade support battalion (bsb.) It handles its own transport, supply and maintenance.

However, to save costs, I am sure than MNC-I transported the tanks to Mosul (IA still lacks major tank transport capability.)

A month ago, it was announced that 9th IAD would reach C1 for logistics, support, (transport, supply, maintenance) in 8 months. Evidence suggests that 9th IAD does a good job with these functions.

The INP is not needed in Ninevah (although they will get 1 brigade longer term as part of the INP's planned geographical dispersement.)

Return BG Mouttaa all his combat battalions from elsewhere in Iraq, and he will take care of business. He killed Safi (the former AQ emir of Mosul) and a bunch of his henchmen in a gunfight with only two body guards by his side.

I'll repeat a prior comment I left:

"Staff Brig Gen Moutaa Habeeb Jassim Jewab (who MND-N Commanding MG Hertling has described as amazingly charismatic) and his 2nd Iraqi Army Division are going to smash AQ in Mosul.

After all, he has done it before:
http://www.blackanthem.com/News/Allies_20/Al-Qaeda_emir_of_Mosul_shot_killed_by_ISF9065.shtml

Go Moutaa! Go the 2nd Iraqi Army Division!"

Colonel Twitty has described 2nd (Mosul and Eastern Ninevah) and 3rd IAD (Western Ninevah including Tal Afar) as two of the best military formations he has ever seen (in any country's military.) In my view, they are the two highest quality divisions in the IA at the division level at this time (1st IAD is very good at the bde and btn level, but has been split up to fight in different parts of Iraq and as a result does not fight as well at the division level, the 4th IAD use to be arguably the best division in Iraq but it is now being split into two divisions and in the process of being upgraded, 8th IAD has lost 3-8 {the new IA 1-14} and is still primarily Shia in composition.)

For a breakdown of BG Mouttaa (2nd IAD) and MG Kirshad's (3rd IAD) forces see:
http://www.longwarjournal.org/multimedia/OOBpage5-IGFC-M.pdf
Upgrade Mouttah's and Kirshad's scout company to bn strength, return their bns to them and they are more than capable of taking care of Ninevah.

I suspect that Kirshad (3rd IAD) gets a lightly armored cavalry (wheeled mech) brigade. Maybe 2nd or 3rd IAD get a tracked wheel bn the way 11th IAD have.

I wonder who becomes Commanding General for the new Ninevah Operations Center?

What is Major General Riad Jalal Tawfiq's position?