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Iraq Report: Operation Phantom Thunder Update

The simultaneous, corps-level operations in Baghdad, the Belts, and beyond against al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed networks continue. Coalition forces captured a senior al Qaeda leader near Fallujah, while operations in Diyala and northern Babil provinces are ongoing. In Baghdad, Coalition forces conducted two raids inside Sadr City, and killed and wounded dozens of members of the Iranian "Secret Cells." Muqtada al Sadr has canceled his march on Samarra planned for July 5.

Anbar, al Qaeda™s Network, and the North

Coalition forces scored a major victory against al Qaeda™s senior leadership. On June 29, Task Force 145 killed Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Masri, an Egyptian member of al Qaeda in Iraq. "Intelligence reports indicate he worked directly for Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the military emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and is associated with other al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Masri was not just involved in al Qaeda in Iraq, but was a global terrorist who has operated in Syria and Afghanistan.

Intelligence reports further indicate he was assessed to be the current Shar™ia Emir of Radwaniyah, responsible for participating in terrorist courts and issuing fatwas. Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Masri fought with Abu Ayyub al-Masri in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, and later came to Iraq with him.

Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Masri also fought in both battles of Fallujah, and was injured in one. He was detained for six months, but upon his release, he relocated to Syria. There, he began working with the network that facilitates the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq, and returned himself in late 2006.

While Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Masri stayed in Iraq, his associates traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to personally discuss external planning with al-Qaeda senior leaders.

Coalition forces maintain the daily raids against senior al Qaeda operatives. Sixteen al Qaeda operatives were captured during raids in Karma in Anbar province and Mosul in Ninewa province in the north. Karma has been a hot spot in the western Baghdad Belts, and Regimental Combat Team - 6 is currently engaged in clearing the region. Al Qaeda has increased activity in Ninewa province, as well as Salahadin and Kirkuk as Operation Phantom Thunder has pressed the terror group in its established bases in the Baghdad Belts.

Diyala

In Diyala province, Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqubah has wrapped up the kinetic phase and Coalition and Iraqi forces are now focused on securing the city and providing food and aide to the residents. "Since the operation started, at least 60 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 87 have been detained, 39 weapons caches have been discovered, 89 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 18 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed," Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

Outside of Baqubah, operations against al Qaeda and allied insurgent groups are ongoing. The Iraqi Army killed one terrorist with a suicide vest, captured 25 others, and found "multiple weapons caches with AK-47s, heavy machine guns, improvised explosive device making materials, and computer hardware" during raids in Sufait.

Northern Babil

Operations Marne Torch southeast of Baghdad and Commando Eagle to the southwest are ongoing. In Lutifiyah in the southwest, U.S. and Iraqi security forces captured 59 suspected insurgents, 41 of whom were " on the Iraqi army™s persons of interest list."

In Salman Pak in the southeast, the reports of the discovery of 20 beheaded bodies floating in the Tigris River were "completely false and fabricated by unknown sources," according to Multinational Forces Iraq. "Anti-Iraqi Forces are known for purposely providing false information to the media to incite violence and revenge killings, and they may well have been the source of this misinformation."

In the process of discussing the falsified report, Multinational Forces Iraq and Rear Admiral Mark Fox admit a very real weakness in dealing with the 21st Century media and instant communications. Democratic governments and their military are bound to strict standards on responding to allegations, which gives a decided advantage to non-state enemies that have no legal restrictions on using the media in an Information Operation.

"Not all media reports can be immediately substantiated by Government of Iraq or Coalition Forces. They must go through a process to verify such claims, to include checking with various Iraqi Ministry™s, local police and security forces," Multinational Forces Iraq stated. "Meanwhile, extremists have achieved their goal of spreading false information aimed at intimidating civilians and destabilizing Iraqi security."

The Iranian Cells and Sadr

U.S. forces conducted two major raids inside Sadr City against the Iranian-backed "Secret Cell" networks on Saturday. At least 26 members of the Qazali Network were killed and 17 captured after pitched battles were fought involving armor and helicopter support.

Meanwhile, Muqtada al Sadr canceled his planned July 5 march to Samarra and the destroyed dome and minarets of the al-Askaria mosque. "Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued an order to cancel our march to Samarra after the government decided to abandon protection for the visitors," said Sheikh Assad al-Naseri, the Imam of the al-Kufa mosque, on Friday. Sadr™s last two protests failed to draw more than ten thousand demonstrators.

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