Coalition and Iraqi security forces were active on Thursday and Friday in fighting as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix. Two senior al Qaeda in Iraq operatives were killed along with 32 foot soldiers during fighting in Arab Jabour, Miqdadiyah, and the Samarra region. Another 34 al Qaeda fighters were reported captured.
Operation Marne Thunderbolt and Arab Jabour
The most high-profile fighting occurred in the Arab Jabour region, which sits just southeast of Baghdad. US and Iraqi forces are conducting Operation Marne Thunderbolt, a subordinate operation to Phantom Phoenix. The US Air Force, in conjunction with 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division launched a massive airstrike on al Qaeda positions in the region.
“Two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers and four F-16 fighters employed approximately four dozen precision-guided, direct-attack munitions or J-DAMs on targets in the Arab Jabour area south of Baghdad,” said Colonel Terry Ferrell, the brigade commander. “More than 50 targets were identified by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in order to destroy known improvised explosive device and cache locations.” Forty-seven of the targets were hit, while three strikes were deferred to minimalist civilian casualties.
While the US military did not have information on al Qaeda casualties, General Mustafa al Jabouri, the commander of the Arab Jabour Concerned Local Citizens force, said a senior al Qaeda leader was killed along with 20 other fighters. “Our information confirmed that Walid Khudair, also known as al Jahash, leader of al-Qaeda in the southern belts of Baghdad, was killed in the air strikes,” Jabouri told AFP. “Twenty other terrorists were also killed.”
Jabouri, who goes by the name General Mustafa, established the Arab Jabour Concerned Local Citizens over this past summer in opposition to al Qaeda’s terror campaign in the region. “They killed our sons, ruined our infrastructure, displaced families, used sectarian violence against the people,” Jabouri said in an interview with The Long War Journal in September 2007. “They killed our electricians, our engineers, the technicians that run our water pumps and [water filtration] plant.”
Jabouri provided a group of local tribesmen to serve as “bird dogs,” or local intelligence agents for US forces. These Iraqi bird dogs likely provided the intelligence used in Friday’s air strikes.
Operation Iron Harvest and Diyala
US and Iraqi forces liberated six villages from al Qaeda control in the region near Miqdadiyah, Iraqi Army Major General Abdul Karim al Rubaie, the director of operations in central Diyala province told AFP.
“The villages have been under the control of al-Qaeda for a long time,” Rubaie. “We have taken them back and al-Qaeda has been chased out.” Ten al Qaeda were reported killed and 20 captured during the operation.
Samarra, Tikrit, Mosul
US and Iraqi forces continue to conduct raids in the north, where al Qaeda has been denied the chance to re-establish new safe havens in the region. Iraqi security forces captured a senior al Qaeda operative in Samarra, where al Qaeda is thought to have built up command and media operations.
Iraqi security forces killed Abu Qataadah al Saudi, “who was one of the most prominent leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” KUNA reported. Iraqi security forces also captured “the mastermind” of the second bombing that destroyed the twin minarets of Samarra’s Al Askaria mosque.
Coalition special forces teams also conducted raids in Samarra, Tikrit, and Mosul. Two terrorists wearing suicide vests were killed in an airstrike north of Samarra. A media cell was dismantled in Tikrit, resulting in two captured, while nine al Qaeda suspects were detained during a raid against a senior leader in Mosul.
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