US Army soldiers from Alpha Company, 2-23 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, take control of a bridge in Miqdadiyah, Iraq, Dec. 19, 2007. (US Army Photo / Specialist Shawn M. Cassatt).
Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to press the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq in the northeastern province of Diyala, where the terror group maintains small pockets. In the latest series of raids as part of Operation Raider Harvest, Iraqi and US forces killed 30 al Qaeda operatives and captured 21, including a senior al Qaeda leader, during raids and operations.
On Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, special operations teams of Task Force 88 carried out two raids north of Baqubah. The first raid targeted “an improvised explosive device specialist involved in coordinating IED and suicide-vest attacks in the region … with ties to several al Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders.” The Special Forces team killed the high-value target and one other operative during the raid, and found improvised explosive devices and grenades at the scene.
Task Force 88 returned to the region the next day seeking a second al Qaeda leader. Ten al Qaeda fighters were killed in airstrikes after manning fighting position, and another three were killed by ground fire as they moved to attack the Special Forces teams. As they secured the building used by the terrorists, Coalition forces found “machine guns, military style assault vests, rocket propelled grenade propellant and various ammunition,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “Nearby, the ground force discovered additional weapons caches to include rocket propelled grenades, artillery and mortar rounds, improvised IEDs, and suicide-vest materials.”
Further north in the Miqdadiyah district, 15 al Qaeda fighters were killed and 20 more were captured during an operation in Sharaban. “A joint force of police and army personnel, backed by US forces, waged a military operation on Monday and Tuesday in four villages in Sharaban town in Miqdadiyah,” General Abdul Karim al Rubaei, the chief of the Diyala operations center told Voices of Iraq. “The operation ended with the killing of 15 gunmen and the detention of 20 others.”
Iraqi police also arrested Fawzi Abdel al Aziz, also known as Abu Yaser, during a raid in the village of Abu al Tamir in the district of Khalis. Yaser is “a senior al-Qaeda commander wanted for involvement in a number of killings and forcible relocation [ethnic cleansing] operations,” Diyala’s chief of police told Voices of Iraq.
The raids and arrests near Baqubah, Khalis, and Miqdadiyah come as US and Iraq forces wrested control of the northern villages of Nimbus, Taiha, and Abu Mousa from al Qaeda’s grip. “The area had been a stronghold and safe haven for al-Qaeda in Iraq for several years,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated in a press release. US and Iraqi forces are providing humanitarian assistance to the villagers.
Al Qaeda in Iraq still maintains a presence and a capacity to strike in the region. On Jan. 22, a suicide bomber detonated his vest in front of a high school in the city of Baqubah. “Students, teachers, bystanders and at least one policeman were among the wounded in the 8:30 a.m. attack,” The Associated Press reported. “The bomber’s target was unclear. The school is next to the provincial governor’s office and a municipal building.”
Operation Raider Harvest is focusing on al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in the Miqdadiyah region of Diyala province. Al Qaeda in Iraq established a safe haven in rural Miqdadiyah after the terror group was ejected from the Baghdad area. Raider Harvest is a subordinate operation to Phantom Phoenix, the overarching security operation targeting al Qaeda’s network throughout central and northern Iraq.