Operation Iron Hammer targets al Qaeda in Iraq’s north

The provinces of Iraq. Click map to view.

As Baghdad has experienced a dramatic drop in violence, the northern provinces have suffered a spike in attacks over the past few months. To counter al Qaeda in Iraq’s repositioning into the northern cities and rural areas, Multinational Forces Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces have launched Operation Iron Hammer in the northern provinces of Ninewa, Tamin, Salahadin, and Diyala.

The northern operation was launched on November 5 and consists of four Iraqi Army Divisions and three US brigades. Over 200 insurgent suspects have been captured, including three high-value al Qaeda leaders. A large amount of explosives and weapons caches have also been found.

As operations against al Qaeda in Iraq have degraded the terror network inside Baghdad and the outer Belts regions of southern Salahadin and Diyala, eastern Anbar, northern Babil, and the greater Baghdad province, al Qaeda has attempted to regroup in the regions of the north as well as in eastern Diyala province.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has attempted to preserve its forces by moving out into the rural regions while attacking security forces in the major northern cities. Al Qaeda is attempting to regroup in the Hamrin Mountain chain and regions along the Iranian border in the east in Diyala and the Sinjar region to the west in Ninewa.

The Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces, are believed to be a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups. On October 30, Iraqi Security Forces captured 39 suspected insurgents along the foothills of the Hamrin Mountains of Tikrit during a single operation.

The cities of Mosul in Ninewa province, Tikrit in Tamin, Samarra in Salahadin, and Miqdadiyah in Diyala have been the scenes of daily attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and the US military. Suicide and car bombs have been prevalent in these cities while they have declined in the central regions of Iraq.

Over the last several days, there have been assassination attempts against the governor of Ninewa and chief of police in Kirkuk. A tribal leader in Tal Afar was assassinated,and four of his attackers were killed. Insurgents also decapitated a person and placed a bomb on the body.

Over the weekend, two insurgent groups clashed with al Qaeda in Iraq. The 1920s Revolution Brigades captured 60 al Qaeda fighters in Diyala province and handed them over to Iraqi Police. “Al Qaeda cheated people under the name of ‘jihad’ and their actions were against all principles,” Husein al Zubaidi, a Diyala official told al Jazeera. “They hurt all Iraqi sects, this is what pushed the national armed groups to face them strongly and bravely.” Iraqi Security Forces also killed five al Qaeda operatives, including three emirs, during a clash in Khalis.

East of Samarra, the Islamic Army in Iraq attacked al Qaeda in Iraq, killing 18 and capturing 16. The insurgent group claimed to have requested the US stay out of the fight to prevent air assets from killing Islamic Army fighters, but Multinational Forces Iraq denied this occurred. US and Iraq forces later conducted an operation in the region, killing seven al Qaeda and capturing four.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Marlin says:

    More good news from Tal Afar today.
    An Iraqi army force on Monday managed to kill eight gunmen and arrest ten others and confiscate a large amount of highly-explosive TNT near Talafar, while two civilians were killed in two separate incidents in Mosul, a media source from the 3rd brigade said.
    “A force from the 3rd brigade of the Iraqi army managed to kill eight gunmen and arrested ten others during fierce clashes that flared up in Abu Mary village near Talafar in western Mosul,” Captain Mohammad Jiyad told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
    “The forces also found four weapons depots containing 50 barrels of TNT and a large amount of weapons and ammunition,” he added.
    Aswat Aliraq: 18 gunmen killed, arrested in Talafar

  • AQI Losses says:

    AQI continues to get hammered from almost every angle. They are running out of places to go and are increasingly isolated.
    Here are the terror network’s October leadership losses, including two from al-Masri’s personal security cell. Hmmm… is Task Force 88 getting close to al-Masri.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    There is an error in that press report. Should read elements of 3rd Iraqi Division.
    The 1st and 2nd Brigades of the 3rd IA Division have the areas north and south of Tal Afar and both HQ there…

  • Neo says:

    “The forces also found four weapons depots containing 50 barrels of TNT and a large amount of weapons and ammunition,”
    There goes this months publicity event.

  • Andrew R. says:

    I wonder about Saladin. It’s Ba’ath country to the extent that Anbar never was, and so I’m wondering what’s going to happen once the shooting between non-AQ and AQ is all done.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    This is good news. They will be pushed into Iran eventually. I wonder who is supplying them? Iran has been a thorn in our side for too long. The capture of Iranian agents in the area says something. They say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”…finally a real strategy that seems to be working. Gen. Petraeus, Col. Mc Master and Odierno are doing the job. The inept people running things back then are gone. Pour it on, finish them.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 11/13/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Recent progress in Iraq – We’re getting some fairly high level enemy leadership out of the way.

    The Long War Journal has a nice pictorial/map overlay grid. Here, The Thunder Run has some more specifics (for more such, see also here, here, here and here for non-enemy leadership news that deals with specific successes, and the Web Recon for new…


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