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Iraq Report: Assassination campaigns

Both the Mahdi Army and al Qaeda in Iraq appear to have conducted bold assassination attempts on Iraqis working with the Coalition. Both attacks occurred on August 11, one in Baghdad and the other in the contested city of Diwaniyah.

Khalil Jalil Hamza , the governor of Qadisiyah province along with newly appointed provincial police chief Khalid Hassan and three security guards were killed in a bombing as they returned from a funeral in a nearby town. Governor Hamza was a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, while Police Chief Hassan "was considered a political independent."

While President Jalal Talabani blamed Sunni terrorists for the attacks, the likelihood is this assassination was carried out by the Mahdi Army. Iraqi security forces and US and Coalition forces have conducted fierce battles with the Mahdi Army in the city of Diwaniyah over the past year. The Mahdi Army has been battling with Iraqi security forces to control the city. An operation in April netted over 40 Mahdi Army fighters and killed several others, while another 40 Mahdi fighters were killed and several others captured during battles in October.

On August 5, the Mahdi Army attempted to assassinate Brig. Gen. Falah Hassan Kanbar, a Shiite commander in the Kazimiyah district in Baghdad. Kanbar is described as "the cleanest guy you can find in Kazimiyah," by an Army captain in the district, and he works closely with US forces.

Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted an assassination attempt inside Baghdad on August 11. The terror group bombed the home of Wathiq al-Obeidi, a Sunni leader in the Azamiyah neighborhood, then followed up the bombing with an assault. Obeidi "called on residents in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah to rise up against foreign fighters," the Associated Press reported.

"We have to fight foreign fighters in our city," Obeidi reportedly said during a sermon last week. "We have to fight those linked to Al Qaeda in Azamiyah." The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda™s puppet organization, accused Obeidi of working with the Anbar Salvation Council, which is responsible for routing al Qaeda in its former stronghold. Al Qaeda's assassination campaign backfired in Anbar province, as the tribes united to oppose al Qaeda's attempts to dominate the western region.

Iraqi and Coalition forces continue the relentless operations against al Qaeda™s network of cell leaders, weapons smugglers and foreign fighter facilitators. Five al Qaeda operatives were killed and 69 captured since the last Friday™s report. Ten al Qaeda were captured and two were killed during a series of raids on August 10 and 11 in Hawija, Balad, and Baghdad. Three terrorists were killed and 10 captured during raids on foreign terrorist cells in Samarra and north of Maqdadiyah on August 10. Thirty al Qaeda in Iraq operatives were captured in raids in Baghdad, Mosul, Karmah, Tarmiyah, Tikrit, and Samarra on August 12. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured 16 al Qaeda fighters during a raid in Subayat Hamash, near Sinjar on August 11, and captured three al Qaeda operatives in Yusifiyah on August 10, including an emir of a large cell.

Coalition forces are maintaining the pressure on the Iranian-backed Special Groups cells and the rogue Mahdi Army units. An evening raid in Sadr City in Baghdad resulted in 13 Special Groups fighters captured and five killed. "Coalition Forces conducted the raid to capture or kill highly-sought weapons facilitators with connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps - Qods Force in Iran," the Multinational Forces Iraq press release stated.

The Special Groups cells are moving explosively formed projectiles into Iraq and are training fighters inside Iran, all with the help of Qods Force. A computer hard drive, documents, and photographs were found during the raid, which will likely provide additional intelligence for future operations. Also, on August 10, US forces captured a commander of a Mahdi Army extrajudicial murder cell responsible for attacking an Iraqi military checkpoint.

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