Iraqi Army and U.S. conduct operations in Baghdad, Diyala, Yusifiyah as U.S. plans to announce a troop surge
As the United States prepares to ‘surge’ more troops in Iraq, about 20,000 to 30,000 American soldiers and Marines according to most press accounts, the Iraqi government announced over the weekend it was conducting its own operation to secure the city. The targets of the Iraqi led operation are said to be both Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. “Military commanders said operations against the al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in its Sadr City stronghold would be left largely to a joint force made up of U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Special Operations Command division under Brig. Gen. Fadhil Birwari, a Kurd,” the Associated Press reported. “Soldiers in the division are a mixture of Kurds and Arabs from both the Sunni and Shiite sects.” Over 20,000 Iraqi Army soldiers are said to be participating in the operation.
The Iraqi Army then immediately launched a major operation in the Sunni-dominated Haifa neighborhood, where Sunni insurgents have a safe haven. Thirty insurgents were killed in the operation, including five Sudanese. These were very likely al Qaeda. Iraqi police have begun to operate in Haifa just recently and are conducting operations with the Iraqi Army.
Today, major fighting again broke out in the Haifa neighborhood after insurgents struck Iraqi Army checkpoints. “Iraqi soldiers appealed to the U.S. military for help,” reports the Associated Press. “American forces sealed off roads and joined Iraqi troops in raiding houses in pursuit of the gunmen.” U.S. aircraft and helicopters were circling the neighborhood in support of the fighting on the ground. Fifty insurgents were killed in the fighting and 21 captured, Those captured included 7 foreigners, including three Syrians – and one Sudanese. Again these are al Qaeda. An al Qaeda cell leader was also captured in southern Baghdad over the weekend.
Iraqi and U.S. forces have gone on the offensive north of Baghdad in Diyala province. A combined U.S. and Iraqi force of about 1,000 are conducting air assault operations, ground strikes and sweeps in the heavily Sunni populated province. On SUnday, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 21 insurgents, while 4 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 27 wounded by an anti-tank mine.
In Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad, the Iraqi Army “arrested Ibrahim al-Jouburi, known as the Prince of al Qaeda in Yusufiya, and Abdullah al-Zoubai, leader of the 20th Revolutionary Brigades insurgent group.” Yusifiyah was a major node for al Qaeda in Iraq under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and was the scene of multiple raids against al Qaeda leadership during the spring and summer of 2006.
Al Qaeda in Iraq reacted to the offensive by the Iraqi government by issuing a statement through the Islamic State of Iraq, the al Qaeda political front organization set up by Abu Musab al-Masri to Iraqify the jihad, denouncing the new security initiative. “Sheikh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi [the leader of the Islamic State of Iraqi] has issued orders to all … Baghdad brigades of the Islamic State of Iraq to be ready to repulse the attacks that the (Iranian) gangs are expected to launch on Sunni areas in coming days under the guise of the Baghdad security plan.” The statement said the plan was designed to “crush Sunnis in Baghdad and destroy their mosques,” but it was “doomed to failure, like its predecessors, and that this puppet, weak Safawi government will not break the will of the true Mujahideen, after their Crusader masters failed to stop the jihad throughout these four years.”
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