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.