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Daily Iraq Report for March 3, 2007

Baghdad has been relatively quiet over the past few days, with only one major suicide bombing, yesterday's attack in Sadr City. Much of the Iraqi and Coalition operations and insurgent attacks have occurred in the provinces. The Pentagon said upwards of 7,000 additional logistics troops would be needed to support the 21,500 soldiers and Marines being sent in the 'surge.'

In Baghdad, Sheikh Rahim al-Daraji, the mayor of Sadr City, which is the stronghold of radical Iranian backed Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has welcomed U.S. forces into the neighborhood, but is unhappy with the deployment of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces. "We want you here sooner, rather than later," Al Daraji said.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi forces are maintaining the pressure on Sadr's Mahdi Army. The Hillah SWAT team captured "the suspected leader of a rogue Jaysh Al-Mahdi militia cell" who "allegedly controls an improvised explosive device cell responsible for attacks against Iraqi civilians and Coalition Forces."

There are indications that a major operation may be underway in Ramadi, however we have been unable to confirm this with Multinational Forces-West. IraqSlogger reports "the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (1-3ID)is currently engaged in street to street fighting in central Ramadi," and the goal is to build a Combat Outpost in the Mulaab district. Furthermore, "The Americans have blocked all Internet access in Ramadi, and that land and cellular telephone links to the outside world are dead," while residents of Fallujah are protesting against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda hit back with two suicide car bomb attacks in Ramadi and Fallujah, killing 12 and wounding over 20.

The New York Times profiles Sheikh Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, the powerful tribal leader of the Risha tribe in Ramadi and leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, the grouping of 26 of Anbar's 31 tribes that are cooperating with the Iraqi government and U.S. military to fight al Qaeda in Iraq. Azzam looks at how Mahmoud al-Fahdawi, the leader the of the Dulaimis in Tarmiya, Dhaloiya, Balad, and Taji, has turned against al-Qaeda. The Dulami tribe is one of the largest in Iraq. What the articles miss is that the Anbar Salvation Council also includes former insurgent groups that have decided to fight al Qaeda. The battle in Amariya is but one example of this.

Sheikh Sattar is forming 8 battalions of tribal militias which are called Emergency Response Units, which will eventually become a provincial police force. Stars and Stripes looks at the successes of the 1st ERU, which is patrolling in the Jazeera region north of Ramadi. Three battalions are currently deployed, and Sheikh Sattar wants the ERUs to secure Ramadi.

U.S. forces have been active in the Taji region in central Iraq. A Coalition air strike is believed to have killed several members of an al Qaeda anti-aircraft cell. "Several members of the cell, as well as vehicles with anti-aircraft artillery weapons and rounds, were gathered at an area known for terrorist activities," notes a Multinational Forces Iraq press release. "The coordinated air strike at the targeted location resulted in the destruction of the vehicles as well as the anti-aircraft artillery." Coalition forces also captured 9 al Qaeda, "two of whom are believed to be foreign fighter facilitators . . . linked to the movement of foreign fighters into Baghdad." The suspects are also believed to have sheltered senior al Qaeda leaders.

In Diyala, where al Qaeda has centered its operations, the bodies of 14 of the Iraqi soldiers kidnapped by al Qaeda in Iraq have been found. Al Qaeda murdered the men. "They were found in the streets of Baquba," said the mayor of Khalis. "Their throats had been cut and their hands were bound." Iraqi Security Forces are searching for the killers. In what is sure to be another al Qaeda attack, six Sunnis were murdered south of Baghdad in Yusufiyah "after participating in a reconciliation conference with Shiite tribes in Mahmoudiya last month."

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