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Iraq Report: Sadr's Small Samarra Protest

Violence in Baghdad and greater Iraq remains low as the Iraqi government is enforcing a curfew in the major population centers where the threat of sectarian backlash from the Samarra mosque bombing remains high. There have been one confirmed report of a mosque attack and no major clashes on the streets. A Sunni mosque in Basra was destroyed on Friday, and a curfew is now in place in the city. The Iraqi Security Forces, along with a Coalition advisory team, have deployed an additional 650 soldiers and police to Samarra, including "Approximately 300 Iraqi Army soldiers from 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, 140 National Policemen from the 3rd Battalion, 3rd National Police, and 150 other National Policemen," noted Multinational Forces Iraq.

The supporters of Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the fractured Mahdi Army, held a protest today in Sadr City, home to an estimated 2 million Shia. The protests drew "more than 2,000 eastern Baghdad residents," according to Multinational Forces Iraq, which closely monitors large gatherings. The paucity of today's demonstration speaks volumes on Sadr's power on the street. A year ago Sadr drew hundreds of thousands into the streets.

This comes after Sadr demanded the Iraqi government conduct a full investigation on the Samarra mosque bombing, the immediate rebuilding of the dome and minarets, and that the government rid "the city of Samarra of any presence of the American forces," IraqSlogger noted. "We presented our deadline to the government, and after its expiration we will have something else to say," said one of Sadr's representatives in parliament.

U.S. and Iraqi forces maintained the pressure on Sadr's Mahdi Army. "Peshmerga Forces" - which are actually Iraqi Army units from the Kurdish regions - "killed two members of the Mahdi Army and arrested six others including an official of Al Sadr Bloc in Suwayra village," Al Sumaria reported. Yesterday, U.S. forces and Iraqi police raided Sadr City, and captured 6 suspects. They also found "a sizeable weapons cache" which included "complete mortar systems," rounds and rockets.

In the violent province of Diyala, where al Qaeda has established its command center, the Iraqi government announced over 2,000 Kurdish-based troops are deploying to the region. "The deployment came following a formal request by the Iraqi government and 'multinational forces™ in the country," noted Azzaman. Iraqi and U.S. forces also beat back an attack on the Diyala Government Center and the Diyala Operations Center in Baqubah, and killed 1 insurgent and wounded another. Two other insurgents were killed by U.S. helicopters as they loaded explosives in a vehicle.

Operations against al Qaeda and insurgent networks continue. Coalition forces killed one al Qaeda operative and captured 16 during raids in Mosul and Anbar province. In Mosul, U.S. forces killed Abu Ahmad, "the head of five terrorist cells in Mosul and was responsible for directing attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces." In Karma, U.S. forces captured an "individual suspected of providing fake documents for al-Qaeda leaders and operatives in the Karmah area." U.S. forces also captured 9 members of an IED cell in the east Doura neighborhood of the Rashid District in Baghdad. "The individuals detained are believed to be involved in an Al-Qaeda roadside bomb and recruiting ring that had recently launched attacks against the unit in Doura."

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