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Daily Iraq Report for February 27, 2007

Less than two weeks after the official announcement of the Baghdad security plan, "reporting of sectarian murders is at the lowest level in almost a year," and "170 suspected insurgents have been arrested and 63 weapons caches of various sizes have been seized," reports Stars and Stripes. Bomb attacks have decreased by 20 percent.

Over the past 24 hours, Iraqi and Coalition forces have pressed raids against al Qaeda in Iraq targets. Yesterday, U.S. forces captured 15 al Qaeda, including an emir (equivalent to a battalion commander in the U.S. military), during raids in Baghdad, Ramadi, Mahmudiyah, and Samarra. The Iraqi Army detained 6 insurgents near Baqubah. Today, 11 al Qaeda, including an emir, were captured during raids in Baghdad, Mosul and Ramadi.

One reason for the decrease in sectarian attacks is the pressure being placed on the Mahdi Army. While Muqtada al-Sadr is hiding in Iran, Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to dismantle his Mahdi Army. U.S. and Iraqi troops conducted raids throughout Sadr City, Muqtada's stronghold in Baghdad, and 16 Mahdi fighters were detained. The rumor in Baghdad is that Sadr himself is "doing some very deadly housecleaning," as "Mahdi Army members have been disappearing or turning up dead in the Sadr City, Kadhimiya, and Baladiyat areas of the capital." But Iraqi and Coalition forces have been conducting a shadow war against Sadr since last summer, maintaining the fiction that only "rogue elements of the Mahdi Army" are being targeted.

Two major attacks have occurred in the past 24 hours. The most significant was an explosion yesterday at the Ministry of Public Works, which nearly killed Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents, as well as Riad Ghraib, the minister of public works. Twelve were killed and 42 wounded after a bomb placed in the ceiling of a ministry conference room exploded. Mahdi and Ghraib were both "lightly wounded" in the explosion, and were treated for "scratches" at a U.S. military hospital. An American intelligence source informs us that al Qaeda and Sadr are the prime suspects. Today, an IED attack outside of a Ramadi mosque killed 15 civilians and wounded 9, including women and children. Al Qaeda recently targeted a mosque in Habbaniyah, and assassinated an imam that spoke out against al-Qaeda.

The evidence that Iran is supplying weapons and explosives to insurgents and militias continues to mount. Iraqi newspapers are now reporting on this development, and are blaming Iran for fueling the violence in Baghdad. A significant find linking weapons and explosives back to Iran was discovered by the U.S. Army in the violent Diyala province. The cache included Iranian made C-4 explosives and mortars. "The explosives were found alongside enough bomb-making materials to build 150 EFPs [Explosively Formed Projectiles] capable of penetrating heavily armored vehicles, according to the expert, Maj. Martin Weber." This latest find follows an MNF-Iraq briefing that provided further evidence of Iranian munitions and support being supplied to insurgents and militias, as well as evidence that Austrian Steyr HS50 sniper rifles purchased by Iran had found their way into Iraq.

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