Iraq Report: Sadr's return, al Qaeda's torture manual
The return of Muqtada al Sadr from his self imposed four month exile in Iraq dominated the news from Iraq today. Sadr, who leads the Sadrist movement and commands the Mahdi Army, sheltered in Iran, under the watchful eye of Iran's Qods Force, made agrand entrance in Kufa, and gave a sermon to 6,000 followers. He denounced the U.S. 'occupation'. "No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel," Sadr chanted at the opening of his sermon. "We demand the withdrawal of the occupation forces, or the creation of a timetable for such a withdrawal... I call upon the Iraqi government not to extend the occupation even for a single day."
Sadr's reasons for returning remain a mystery. It remains to be seen if he can reorganize the fracture Mahdi Army, which split apart after the militia's leadership and paymkasters fled to Iran. He may also be attempting to take advantage of the absense of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the powerful Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), which recently officially broke from Iran and is working closely with the Iraqi government.
Multinational Forces Iraq and Iraqi Special Forces sent Sadr a calling card, and conducted two high profile raids - one in Sadr City, and another in Basra. The British killed Abu Qader, the leader of the Mahdi Army in Basra, along with his brother and two aides. Qader "was suspected of involvement in planting roadside bombs, weapons trafficking, assassinations and planning and participating in attacks against British troops," Reuters noted. Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in the heart of Sadr Ciy, Muqtada's purported stronghold, and captured a Mahdi fighter "suspected of having direct ties to the leader of the EFP network as well as acting as a proxy for an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer."
Coalition forces maintained the pressure on al Qaeda's network, and captured 20 al Qaeda during raids in Baghdad and Mosul. The Baghdad raids netted an al Qaeda "battalion commander... responsible for numerous attacks in Baghdad, including assassinations, attacks on news media and attacks on the city™s infrastructure," as well as an "explosives expert... known to have knowledge of explosively formed penetrators" and "a close associate of a Libyian who facilitates the movement of foreign fighters in the area."
Also, the Multinational Forces Iraq announced it found a 'how-to™ torture manual during a raid on an al Qaeda safe house in Iraq several weeks ago. The manual contains "drawings show how to drill hands, sever limbs, drag victims behind cars, remove eyes, put a blowtorch or iron to someone™s skin, suspend a person from a ceiling and electrocute them, break limbs and restrict breath and put someone™s head in a vice."
Al Qaeda conducted two notable attacks today - it bombed another bridge across the Euphrates river, and executed yet another commando styled assault in Diyala province. The bridge linked the al-Adl district to al-Khadra district. "The bombing is part of serial attacks targeting bridges and crossings in Baghdad in a bid by militants to destroy Iraq's infrastructure facilities," a source told the Kuwati News Agency. This the eighth bridge targeted by al Qaeda. At least two have been destroyed, and one was replaced.
In Diyala, al Qaeda attacked "a mainly Sunni village near Baqubah, killing five people, in the ongoing battle for control of al-Anbar and Diyala provinces between al-Qaeda and an alliance of local Sunni tribes." Al Qaeda fired "indiscriminately at civilians before fleeing." This follows a recent meeting between 45 tribal sheikhs and the Diyala government, Iraqi police and mulitary, and U.S. forces. The Diyala tribes have formed the Awakening Movement, mirrored after that of the Anbar Awakening, which has had great success in beatng back al Qaeda in large swaths of Anbar province.