Iraqi soldiers and their US advisers move through the streets of Mosul during a daylight search for the city’s Chaldean Catholic archbishop.
MOSUL, IRAQ: The search for Mosul’s kidnapped Chaldean Catholic Archbishop has met a tragic ending. After a two-week search by Iraqi and US forces stationed in Mosul, the body of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found dead inside the city limits. Iraqi interpreters assigned to the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division confirmed Rahho’s body was found there.
The recovery of the archbishop was a high priority for the Iraqi Army operating in Mosul. The Iraqi Army conducted numerous searches in the city since the archbishop was kidnapped by terrorists in Mosul on Feb. 29.
The last search was conducted in the early morning of March 12, after the 4th Brigade received intelligence that two suspects in the kidnapping were operating in southeastern Mosul. After receiving the tips, the 4th Brigade planned a snap raid to detain the suspects.
Tips continue to play a major role in the Iraqi Army’s operations in Eastern Mosul. Almost 60 percent of the roadside bombs in the 4th Brigade’s area of operations are either defused or destroyed before they can be detonated. Brigadier General Noor Aldeen, the 4th Brigade commander, credits tips from the people of Mosul with much of this success.
The raid to detain the wanted terrorists was organized shortly after receiving the latest tip. This operation was planned and executed by the Iraqi Army. Available US support included the battalion and brigade Military Transition Teams, air support, and elements from the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. The Iraqi Brigade was responsible for conducting the cordon and search operation, with the 1/8 providing blocking positions to the South as well as any backup support if needed.
After the planning session, Noor Aldeen received additional information that indicated suicide vests may be in the possession of one of the suspects. The raid that was planned for early morning of the 12th was moved up to just past midnight.
The raid took place in the Somer neighborhood in the southeastern section of Mosul. The Somer neighborhood is considered a dangerous area. Master Sergeant Tony Reese, one of the military advisers for the 4/2 described the main road that cuts through Somer as “IED alley,” as insurgents often seed the street with roadside bombs at night.
Somer is on the opposite side of the city from Forward Operating Base Lion. The 4th Brigade rolled out the gates in a massive convoy and headed south. Mosul is currently under a nighttime curfew to help limit the violence and keep insurgents from planting more bombs in the streets. The streets of Mosul were empty, save the police pickets and packs of wild dogs.
After arriving in Somer, the Iraqi Army quickly established the cordon and pushed through the neighborhood to begin its search. The Iraqi Army also searched several abandoned homes for weapons caches and evidence of terrorist safe houses used to hold the kidnapping victims.
The empty homes were large and some hastily abandoned. Furniture, clothing, television, and other household items were left behind. Some of the homeowners took the time to quickly seal the entryways by building brick walls.
Iraqi soldiers broke through the courtyard gates of some homes and scaled the walls at others. The homes were thoroughly searched, but no evidence of safe houses, weapons caches, or roadside bomb factories was uncovered. The 4th Brigade’s search element then moved to its final search site, where it found some success.
The Iraqi soldiers found one of the two men on the wanted list. The man was questioned by the officers and was clearly nervous. After confirming the man’s identity, he was taken by Iraqi soldiers back to the base, where he would be interrogated for information on the kidnapping ring plaguing Mosul.
The following day the archbishop’s body was found half-buried in an empty lot. Yet, the search for the kidnapping ring that is terrorizing Mosul will continue. Five Iraqis, including a Sunni sheikh, are still missing as al Qaeda in Iraq and its extremist allies are seeking to raise funds to continue their terror activities in the northern city.
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