Iraqi Army Col. Msfab Yousif reloads his AK-47 after using it to destroy a vehicle that was used in illegal checkpoint activities by insurgents in Ad Dawr near Tikrit; Iraq; Nov. 21. Yousif is the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army and was leading the raid to find insurgents operating illegal checkpoints. Photo by SPC Eric Rutherford.
The Iraqi government and Multinational Forces Iraq continue to take the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups in the northern provinces. On the heals of Operation Lightning Hammer II – the multidivision operation in the provinces of Ninewa, Tamin, Salahadin, and Diyala – Iraqi and US forces have launched Operation Iron Reaper, a follow-on operation in the same region.
Iron Reaper, which consists of elements of four US brigade combat teams and three different Iraqi Army divisions, was launched on November 27. “The purpose of Operation Iron Reaper is to continue the pursuit of al-Qaeda and set the conditions for continued reconciliation efforts in key Northern provinces,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated in a press release on the operation.
Over 850 mortars, along with 70 rockets, various explosives, bomb-making materials and manuals, and “about a dozen explosively formed projectiles” were found in various caches. Iran has been the primary importer of the deadly explosively formed projectile land mines.
“Task Force Iron’s previous division-level operation, Operation Iron Hammer, began the process of improving security in the north and set in motion reconciliation efforts. The reconciliation paved the way for the signing of 6,000 Concerned Local Citizens,” said the press release. The recruitment of 6,000 Concerned Local Citizens in the Hawijah region has set the stage to allow Iraqi and Coalition forces to push into the rural towns and villages in the Za’ab Triangle as well as push al Qaeda and insurgent elements form the population centers of Mosul and Kirkuk.
US and Iraqi security forces have launched two division-sized operations in Kirkuk and the surrounding regions over the course of November. On November 5, US and Iraqi forces launched Operation Iron Hammer in the city and regions surrounding Kirkuk. Over 200 insurgent suspects were captured, including three high-value al Qaeda leaders. Iron Hammer was followed by Operation Raging Eagle, which also focused on Kirkuk and the surrounding regions. Over fifty al Qaeda operatives were captured during the operation.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgency has been active in Mosul, Kirkuk, and Hawijah over the past several days. Today, insurgents shot and killed Sheikh Ata Allah Iskandar Habib, a leader in the Hawijah Awakening Council. “The gunmen set the two bodies on fire at the scene of the attack,” Voices of Iraq reported. Yesterday, the head of the Diyala Salvation Council escaped an assassination attempt.
In Mosul, four police and seven insurgents were killed in a series of clashes. The four police were killed in an ambush, while the seven insurgents were killed by US soldiers and Iraqi police. One more policeman was killed in an IED attack and three were wounded. North of Tikrit, Iraqi soldiers killed two suicide bombers, while three soldiers were wounded.
On December 2, Iraqi police captured 12 suspected insurgents in Hawijah, while the Iraqi Army captured 17. Kurdish security forces also defused a car bomb attack directed at its headquarters in northern Mosul.
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