Coalition forces disrupt al Qaeda plot to disrupt communications and assassinate tribals
The city of Hit has been a Coalition success story, and for this reason also a focus of counterattack for the insurgency and al Qaeda. Hit was one of the first cities on the western Euphrates River Valley to be secured (July 2005) during the first phase of the Anbar Campaign. Colonel Stephen Davis’ Regimental Combat Team – 2 secured the city during Operation Sword. In August, the terrorist al-Ahwal Brigade was skillfully dismantled within two weeks.
The river crossing in Hit was destroyed during Operation River Gate to disrupt the insurgency’s line of communications and funnel traffic at the crossings in Rawah and Ramadi. Over a month after River Gate, a joint and combined task force of Marines, U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Army launched Operation Iron Hammer in Hit to clear the Hai Al Becker region on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, an area intelligence thought to be a way station for foreign fighters transiting from Syria. After the New Year, Hit has been the focus of counterinsurgency operations such as Koa Canyon and Smokewagon, the last of which resulted in four insurgents are killed and three captured. One was discovered wearing a suicide vest, a sign of al Qaeda affiliation.
al Qaeda has intensified efforts to dislodge due to the Coalition and Iraqi Army successes in Hit. Last December, Major Tom Shoemake, the commander of the Civil Affairs Group in Hit explained the Civil Military Affairs mission in the city. He was a frequent target of assassination due to his successes in Hit.
During a recent operation north of Ramadi, Coalition forces uncovered an al Qaeda plot directed at assassinating members of the Albu-Nimr Tribe and disrupting communications nodes in Haditha, Khan al-Baghdadi and Hit. The selection of targets is clear – al Qaeda wants to intimidate the tribes working in conjunction with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces, and sever their ability to communicate with the government. Tips from Iraqi citizens are on the rise, and are a major threat to al Qaeda’s ability to safely operate.
Several military officers in Anbar have informed me about the existence of al Qaeda “hit-teams” – squad sized units well armed, well financed, with a mission to goad Coalition forces into fights designed to kill and injure civilians, and sow suspicion and distrust (more on these hit-teams in the near future). While the insurgency and al Qaeda are down, they certainly are not out in Anbar province.
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