Targeting al Qaeda in Iraq’s network

Al Qaeda leaders killed or captured in October. Click map to view.

US and Iraqi Security Forces are maintaining the pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq’s network nationwide. October netted the highest number of senior terror leaders since the surge went into full effect in mid-June. While Iraqi and US forces have degraded al Qaeda’s network inside Baghdad and in the Belts, the terror group is attempting to regroup in the north and east.

The daily raids conduct by Task Force 88, the hunter-killer teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda’s network in Iraq, have resulted in significant losses for the terror network. Forty-five senior al Qaeda in Iraq operatives were killed or captured during the month of October, said Colonel Donald Bacon, the Chief of Strategy and Plans, Strategic Communications at Multinational Forces Iraq, in an interview on November 13. Among those captured or killed include:

• 6 emirs at the city level or higher in the AQI leadership structure, including the leader of Diyala province.

• 6 geographical or functional cell leaders

• 14 foreign terrorists facilitators.

• 3 car bomb cell leaders.

• 6 logistical support emirs.

• 8 media/propaganda operatives.

The numbers of senior al Qaeda operatives killed or captured have steadily increased since the surge kicked off in mid-June, with 19 senior al Qaeda killed or captured in July, 25 in August, and 29 in September.

Multinational Forces Iraq may be closing in on al Qaeda’s top tier of leadership. Two of the cell leaders captured were members of Abu Ayyub al Masri’s personal bodyguard. Al Masri is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

“Draw your own conclusions” about the significance of these captures, Bacon said when discussing the detention of al Masri’s bodyguards. “We think we’re squeezing them having success,” in closing in on al Masri. In September, US forces captured Ali Fayyad Abuyd Ali, al Masri’s father-in-law who was a senior advisor to senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, including al Masri.

While Multinational Forces Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces have had success against al Qaeda’s network, the terror group has not been defeated. “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been hurt, but still has capabilities,” said Bacon. “Al Qaeda has been weakened in Baghdad and the Belts, but is not defeated.” Al Qaeda in Iraq is still “capable of conducting strikes but at a much reduced level.”

Al Qaeda is believed to be reorganizing in the northern and eastern regions in Iraq. “They are migrating to Mosul, the Hamrin mountains, Diyala to the east,” said Bacon. “Ninewa province and Hamrin mountains” are the “two main areas” where al Qaeda is thought to be regrouping to continue its campaign.

The Hamrin Mountains span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces in the north. Multinational Forces Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces launched Operation Iron Hammer in the northern provinces of Ninewa, Tamin, Salahadin, and Diyala on November 5.

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



  • John Knowlton says:

    The noose tightens, and it looks like the tightening is accelerating. As we turn over more areas to the Iraqi Army, that frees up our troops to continue to use intelligence to roll further up the chain. Task force 88 must be getting close to the top leaders.

  • templar knight says:

    Grind ’em up. The more of these guys we kill, the better off we will be in the long run. We don’t need to give these guys any time to reqroup, to reorganize, or to escape.

  • Keep the good new coming.

  • 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…

  • C-Low says:

    When I first saw the pic, I thought a new update of the AQ Iraq leadership. Then I read the base line and had to kick back and truly bask in the beauty of it. That is freekin awesome.

  • Marlin says:

    The good news continues in early November.
    One of the terrorists killed in Tarmiyah Nov. 5 has been positively identified as Tha’ir Malik.
    Tha’ir Malik was the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader for the Tarmiyah sector of the northern belt. Reports indicate Malik was previously involved in a terrorist group that conducted attacks against Iraqi citizens for not following Taliban-like rules.
    Malik was a subordinate of Abu Ghazwan, the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader of the northern belt and direct associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Reports indicate that as Coalition forces operations captured al-Qaeda in Iraq elements in Tarmiyah, many of the northern belt leadership were forced out, but Malik remained and was promoted to military emir of the northern belt network.
    MNF: UPDATE: Coalition forces positively identify terrorist killed in recent raid (Tarmiyah)

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