More than 375 suspected al Qaeda fighters detained in Diyala operation

Map of Diyala province [PDF]. Click to view.

More than 375 insurgents and al Qaeda operatives have been captured during the first week of Operation Omens of Prosperity in Diyala province. Six senior al Qaeda in Iraqi leaders in the province have been captured during the province-wide operation.

The Iraqi military announced it captured 265 suspected al Qaeda fighters during operations from July 29 through Aug. 2. Five members of al Qaeda’s provincial shura, or executive council, were captured during this timeframe.

Iraqi troops captured Qussai Ali Khalaf, the leader of al Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq in Diyala province; Adnan Gumer Mohammed, the provincial “judge”; Ahmed Quasim Jabbar the provincial military commander; Abu Anas al Baghdadi, “a top al-Qaeda operative in Diyala”; Basem al Safaah, who led sectarian attacks against Shia; and Antisar Khudair, a woman who recruited female suicide bombers. Al Qaeda has stepped up female suicide attacks in an effort to bypass increased security.

The arrests over the past two days show the Iraqi security forces are operating throughout most of the province. On Aug. 3 Iraqi soldiers and police arrested 18 insurgents in the Adhim, Kanaan, and Tahrir regions, and captured 15 more in raids throughout the province. On Aug. 4, Iraqi security forces captured 34 “wanted men” during operations in Khalis and captured 15 insurgents in Miqdadiyah.

Operation Omens of Prosperity

Operation Omens of Prosperity began on July 29 after the Iraqi and US military and the government of Iraq signaled the operation well in advance. Diyala has been the most violent province in Iraq this year as al Qaeda has attempted to regroup in the rural farmlands in the eastern and northern regions of the province.

Iraqi and US military intelligence indicates al Qaeda has camps and safe havens in the desert regions, the foothills of the Hamrin mountains, and around Lake Hamrin. “We have seen al-Qaida continue to be pushed into what we call ‘the support zones’ or the areas of the desert,” said Major General Mark Hertling, the commander Multi-National Division North during a press briefing on July 27. “And we will continue to pursue them into those areas, relentlessly pursuing them and showing them there is no sanctuary until they leave this country.”

These bases are used to strike and Iraqi military and civilian targets in the urban areas in Diyala as well as in Baghdad.

Operation Omens of Prosperity is currently broken down into three smaller operations: Sabre Pursuit, Iron Pursuit, and Bastogne Pursuit. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, backed by about 3,000 US troops, are participating in the operation.

Sabre Pursuit, which began on July 25, four days prior to Omens of Prosperity, has focused on the southeastern region of Balad Ruz. The region appears to have been cleared as local security has been fully transferred to Iraqi soldiers and police and an emphasis is being placed on reconstruction efforts.

Iron Pursuit is a US-led operation that is “directed against all the support zones of al Qaeda in Iraq,” Hertling said. The operation is spanning Diyala and neighboring Salahadin province. Iraqi and US troops are conducting air assaults into known al Qaeda rear areas.

Iron Pursuit also serves as a blocking force to catch al Qaeda fighters fleeing Diyala westward into Salahadin. Iraqi troops are “pushing toward the Uzaym River Valley attempting to kill or capture AQI members fleeing from Diyala into Salahadin in order to escape advancing Iraqi Security and Coalition forces.” Three al Qaeda fighters have been killed and nine captured so far.

There has been no reporting on Bastogne Pursuit, which was mentioned by Hertling during the July 27 briefing, but the operation is likely to focus on the foothills of the Hamrin Mountains in the Kifri and Khanaqin districts in the northern part of Diyala province. Iraqi troops captured a senior al Qaeda financier and facilitator in the Lake Hamrin region.

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



  • Neo says:

    Well, it’s a bit more than what I would call a mop-up-operation, more like saturating the area with troops. This time it looks mostly like an Iraqi operation with US troops dropping in on the enemy for surprise visits.

  • Cordell says:

    Can one infer anything by the high insurgent capture to kill ratio seen in this operation? This report seems to imply that there have been remarkably few firefights to date, suggesting that AQI is a spent force — with most willing to throw in the towel when cornered. Is this really the case? Your recent report that ~1000 Iraqi insurgents turned themselves in supports this conclusion.
    Also, does the military have any estimates of the remaining troop strength of AQI? Judging by their activity, (e.g. IED attacks down by over 85% year-over-year), their numbers seem to have fallen below 2000 even before this current Diyala operation. Or are they so short on funds that they cannot hire unemployed local Iraqis to place the IEDs? The diminished IED lethality and more numerous fake IEDs seen in your reports suggests they are definitely running short of explosives.
    Thanks again to all at LWJ for their reporting efforts. The MSM seems almost to have instituted a news blackout on the Iraq War except for their running count of the U.S. death toll there.

  • Buff52 says:

    Could it be that by God’s grace and hard work there is the possiblity of an “Appomatox Court House” scene in Iraq where Al Quaeda/Senior Insurgent Leadership surrender?

  • Tyrone says:

    I read somewhere that IED attacks were down for a number of reasons, the ones I can remember are: less access to high quality explosives as the caches continue to be found, poor import capacity due to rat lines not operating well (because of us working that part of the enemy operation effectively), better spotting of IEDs before detonation as we get better and better at identifing and removing, better intelligence after they are planted, better armor equipment for the troops, so less deaths reported as result of attacks, more and more areas with no significant AQI presence. I doubt the AQI will ever total give up … there are no doubt areas with extemists who will continue to fight as long as US troops are in Iraq and as long as there is a Shiite govt. But their numbers will continue to decrease until they reach a mimimal level of noise in the background, maybe like street gangs in this country but with IED capability. That’s my personal estimate of the best/most probable case scenario if we stick with the path we are on. I would say that AQI doesn’t have the force or training to stand up and fight, so the surrenders and arrests are, once again – my guess, because they hope to thereby be released by the courts and live to fight another day. Which happens quite a lot, but no way around it. Without good evidence, you could convict a lot of innocents which would make you more enemies – so one does the best one can. They all get put into databases and a pattern emerges of who is who. Intelligence continues to improve. No Appomatox ever though IMO. Maybe a high profile surrender, like one of the top level Baathists who decides it is not worth it any more and time to pursue politics (even that is prob totally wishful thinking).

  • AMac says:

    “Suspected al Qaeda fighters”: how do the Iraqi or Coalition forces identify an al Qaeda fighter in the context of these operations? Some young guy loitering on a street corner with a bad attitude… how does he fit into the picture, if at all? Or, are there defined camps or farmsteads used by AQIZ and related organizations, so that being present in the area is prima facie evidence of involvement, one way or another?
    Second question, how are these hundreds of cases going to be disposed of? (Civilian) judicial proceedings? Confinement as an illegal combatant or quasi-POW? Held for a while in a tent city behind a barbed wire fence, then unceremoniously released (or deported, for the foreigners) in a few months? Perhaps the latter is most likely for all but the high-value targets.
    Observation — Bill’s describes AQIZ and its allies having established fixed camps and safe havens in remote (and sparsely-inhabited?) parts of Diyala (rural areas, foothills of the Hamrin mountains, desert, shores of Lake Hamrin). This would appear to violate Mao’s dictum of guerillas swimming like fish, where the ocean is “the people.” Especially in an age of UAVs, spotter planes, instant communications, and heli-borne SOF, concentrating in a remote area would seem to put the insurgents at a major tactical disadvantage.
    The strategy would be practical if AQIZ knew that the ISF and Coalition were overstretched, and that contact/destruction wouldn’t follow detection. Or if AQIZ was confident that any ISF moves would be leaked to them in advance. But while that seemed to largely be the case in 2006, it seems that subsequent changes have not favored the insurgency. The success of the ISF move into Basra and the south should have worried AQ’s leadership in terms of what it revealed of ISF capacity and will.
    Is their problem that they still have fighters/wannabe jihadis, but no place to disperse them to? Or that the leadership of the insurgency is too dispersed/depleted/riven by dissent to implement a plan? Or simply bad/outdated planning on their part?

  • Cordell says:

    Because of AQI’s unpopularity with local Iraqis, they have increasingly bad options on where to establish safe havens. As you stated, if they hide out in remote areas by themselves they risk being spotted by UAVs. But if they remain in towns and cities with the people, they risk being fingered by any local with a cell phone. Foreign Arab accents are apparently easily identifiable, much like a Yankee accent sticking out like a sore thumb in the Deep South. I suspect the reason why AQI hides out in remote villages is that the village lacks cell phone service and AQI has sufficient numbers to intimidate the locals into silence. One can follow Mao’s rule of “swimming with the fish” so long as the fish are not hungry “sharks” willing to make a discreet call to a reward tip line. When the history of the Iraq War is written, the intelligence gained from having over half of Iraqi adults carrying cell phones will undoubtedly be cited as a major factor in vanquishing AQI.

  • pedestrian says:

    Job near accomplished for Iraq. It’s time to strike Iran and destroy the remaining terrorists and their IED factories in Iran to put an end the game. If we leave them alone, they will reconstruct their networks and fix the damage. US must slam Iran before that happens.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/05/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Matthew (in Aus) says:

    Making a map for the operation’s Wikipedia page. Couple of geographical questions
    1. It looks like the Uzaym river is the border between Diyala and Salah-ad-Din provinces. Is this the case?
    2. How much of a barrier/hindrance is the Hamrin mountain range. From a cursory examination of google maps, it does not look very formidable (compared to say the Hindu Kush). What is the assessment from the ground?
    3. Between Lake Hamrin and the Uzaym river, it appears to be desert. Is this the case? If so, does it mean that AQI is fleeing across open desert to get away from Iraqi/US forces? Or are they further south, closer to the Tigris river, near Khalis?

  • Neo says:

    “1. It looks like the Uzaym river is the border between Diyala and Salah-ad-Din provinces. Is this the case?”

  • Mastiff says:

    A bit of a nitpick, Mr. Roggio:
    Five members of al Qaeda’s provincial shura
    I can’t say without seeing the Arabic, but I expect the original term to have been “al-majlis as-shura”; “shura” means “advice or consultation,” and in this context is used as an adjective. Referring to AQI’s council in English, you’d probably want to use the word “majlis,” which means council.


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