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Daily Iraq Report for March 13, 2007

The Baghdad Security Plan continues to show some encouraging signs of progress in reducing the levels of violence in the capital and in the provinces. The sectarian attacks have been reduced significantly. There have been no major suicide or carbomb attacks in Baghdad or the provinces over the past 48 hours. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been able to pull of 5 mass casualty attacks over the past 9 days. Two were directed at security checkpoints inside Baghdad, two at pilgrims traveling to Karbala, and the last a bombing in a cafe in Balad Ruiz.

During a nine day operation inside Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces targeted IED networks inside the city. The operation, dubbed Arrowhead Strike 8, ended on Sunday and resulted in "24 terrorists... killed; four wounded and 90 suspected terrorists... detained. Several of those detained were members of Al Qaeda." Several large weapons caches were also uncovered.

As we've noted in the past, the province of Diyala is becoming a major focus of operations. In an interview with ABC News, General David Petraeus noted that, "There are worrying trends in the Diyala province that will force US forces to pay closer attention to that area," as paraphrased by as IraqSlogger. Multinational Forces Iraq has just deployed an additional battalion of 700 U.S. Army troops from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division to the city of Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala. The 5/20 Infantry is a Stryker Battalion. The Iraqi government has indicated it plans to move troops to Diyala as well. From March 8 through March 11, Iraqi Army and U.S. soldiers killed 16 insurgents and captured 11 during operations in As Sadiyah in Diyala province.

Last weekend, the Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda's political front, torched the homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen in Muqdadiya who oppose al Qaeda. Tribal leaders in Diyala are beginning to organize along the lines of the Anbar Salvation Council in Anbar province, and will increasingly become the target of an intimidation and terror campaign by al Qaeda.

Inside Baghdad, the U.S. and Iraqi security forces have met very little resistance in securing Sadr City. "The peaceful move of US forces into the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City has been a 'pleasant surprise,'" IraqSlogger notes, based on the ABC News interview with General Petraeus. IraqSlogger also reports of isolated cases of Mahdi Army activity, however the incidences of attacks are very low.

Iraqi and Coalition forces remain on the offense against al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and the Mahdi Army. Over the past several days, there have been multiple raids inside Baghdad and across the county. Fifteen al-Qaeda operatives and foreign facilitators were captured Sunday during raids in Taji, Abu Ghraib, Karma and near Al Asad. Another 7 were detained in Saqlawiyah. Six insurgents were captured in Balad on Saturday, and another 4 members of the Mahdi Army were detained on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Iraqi Army Special Forces captured nine members of an insurgent network in Abaychi in Salahadin province. The Network "reportedly trains insurgents and terrorists from Ansar al Sunna, Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups participating in sectarian attacks against Iraqi civilians or attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition force members," according to a Multinational Forces Iraq press release. This network trains insurgents "in emplacing improvised explosive devices, direct attacks and kidnapping and murder actions," and "provides training on using and employing the SA-7 antiaircraft missile." Al Qaeda in Iraq has been training and employing anti aircraft teams in an attempt to disrupt U.S. air dominance over Iraq.

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