The same day Multinational Forces Iraq reported it had killed Tha’ir Malik, the emir of Tarmiyah, Coalition forces fought a major battle against the terror network in the city. Twenty-five al Qaeda in Iraq operatives were killed and 21 captured after Coalition forces conducted a series of raids west of the central Sunni city searching for senior al Qaeda leaders.
The term “Coalition forces” in Multinational Forces Iraq press releases usually is referring to Task Force 88 or The Task Force, the special operations hunter-killer teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership. The scope of the battle and number of al Qaeda operatives killed and captured indicates the Task Force may have come close to its mark.
The battle was initiated after soldiers spotted fighters and called in close air support to attack. The al Qaeda teams engaged the Coalition aircraft with anti-aircraft weapons before moving to a secondary fighting position and then other buildings. Also uncovered at one of the sites was “two substantially large weapons caches” which “included numerous anti-aircraft machine guns, surface-to-surface missiles, rifles, pistols, grenades, mortar rounds and artillery shells. Coalition forces also found a large quantity of ammunition and components used to manufacture improvised explosive devices.” No Coalition casualties were reported.
During the hunt for Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Task Force fought frequent, large-scale engagements in the Yusafiyah, Samarra, and Baqubah regions before Zarqawi was finally found in Baqubah and killed in an airstrike. One of the features of these engagements was encountering al Qaeda anti-aircraft teams, which were assigned to protect the senior leaders from Coalition air support. Another feature was the steady stream of al Qaeda leaders and operatives close to Zarqawi who were killed or captured during a short period of time.
Along with the killing of Tha’ir Malik, the Task Force captured Yasin Turki Mahmud Slaih and Marwan ‘Abdullah Ahmad ‘Abd, two members of al Masri’s personal security detachment. Both of al Masri’s bodyguards were captured near Tarmiyah. Forty-five senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders were killed or captured in October alone.
Over the past year, Tarmiyah has been one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq. Situated on the Tigris River in south Salahadin province just north of Baghdad, Tarmiyah has served as a base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq. The Task Force has conducted raids against al Qaeda’s leadership in the town on a near daily basis. Al Qaeda conducted a coordinated suicide attack and massed assault on a US base in Tarmiyah in February 2007.
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