Iraqi and Coalition security forces have wrapped up Operation Lightning Hammer, a 12-day security operation designed to eject al Qaeda in Iraq from the Diyala River Valley north of the provincial capital of Baqubah Launched on August 13, the same day as Operation Phantom Strike, the overarching security operation was announced, Lightning Hammer consisted of 10,000 US and 6,000 Iraqi Security Forces and aimed at the estimated 200 al Qaeda in Iraq operatives that were believed to have fled Baqubah to the regions north of the city. Twenty-six al Qaeda operatives were killed and 37 detained during the operation.
Ten weapons caches, six car bombs, and 22 roadside bombs were found and destroyed. US and Iraqi forces also gathered significant intelligence on al Qaeda’s operations and network in the region. “An al-Qaeda command post was discovered in the village of Shadia, and an al-Qaeda medical clinic was located in Qaryat Sunayjiyah,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated in a press release. “The command post, which was surrounded by fighting positions, contained bed space for 20 individuals, supply requests, records of munitions, a list of families supporting the element, a list of al-Qaeda members detained by Coalition Forces and other terrorist propaganda.”
The joint security operation cleared 50 villages. A permanent combat outpost has been established in the village of Mukeisha, “in the heart of the river valley area.” Iraqi and Coalition forces followed the combat operations with humanitarian and medical assistance.
Iraqi and Coalition forces are also engaging the tribes in the region to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, continuing the bottom up reconciliation and security process that has proven successful since the “surge” began. “More than 80 tribal leaders and representatives, some of whom had not spoken in over a year, met Aug. 19 to discuss their grievances and swore on the Quran to unite in their fight against terrorists and become one tribe of Diyala,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated. Just last week, the Diyala Salvation Council announced “the completion of all preparations to open 12 offices inside the province’s five districts: Baqubah Khalis, Muqdadiya, Balad Ruz, Khanqin,” Voices of Iraq reported. “The new branches will coordinate between tribes and government departments, mainly security departments (police and army),” a member of the council told Voices of Iraq.
Iraqi Security Forces are said to have launched a large-scale operation along the Iranian border in Diyala. “Iraqi army troops launched a large-scale operation into areas extending from Mandali town towards the Iranian borders, areas believed to have hideouts to gunmen who have been attacking the security forces and facilitating arms smuggling and entry of foreign militants from and into Iraq,” and anonymous Iraqi security official told Voices of Iraq. “The operation covered areas including al-Nida village and Hamrin mounts where 150 suspected gunmen were arrested.” Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out brutal attacks against the villages in this region several months ago.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is by no means defeated in Diyala province, and is seeking to intimidate the local population. In Muqdadiyah, east of Baqubah an al Qaeda suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck a police convoy as it patrolled a market in the city. At least 38 police and civilians were wounded in the attack.
Al Qaeda also launched its own offensive in the town of Kanan, south of Baqubah “More than 200 fighters from al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate attacked a mosque and the homes of tribal sheikhs in the town of Kanan,” the AFP reported. “The first attack was against a mosque,” Brig. Gen. Ali Dalayan, the police chief of Baqubah told AFP. “They blew up the mosque, then they bombed houses crowded with family members.” The tribal sheikhs were targeted as they pledged to fight al Qaeda.
The 1920s Revolution Brigades — a Sunni insurgent group who turned on al Qaeda — backed Iraqi police who battled al Qaeda in Kanan. The 1920s Revolution Brigades has battled al Qaeda in Iraq several times in Diyala province over the past year.
Twenty-three people were killed during the battle, including one of the sheikhs, several of his sons, and a policeman. “The attackers however managed to abduct 15 people, eight women and seven children,” AFP reported. Twenty-two al Qaeda fighters were detained south of Kanan.
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