Abu Ghazwan. Image is from an Iraqi wanted poster.
Iraqi troops scored a blow against al Qaeda in Iraq’s network during a series of operations in the Tarmiyah region. Iraqi soldiers, backed by the local Sons of Iraq and US troops, killed Abu Ghazwan, a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader, during a shootout.
Ghazwan was killed after the joint forces were sweeping a region near Tarmiyah that was thought to contain weapons caches and was a location of enemy activity. The Iraqi and US forces were attacked with small arms fire and an land mine as they searched a location. Iraq troops returned fire and later found Ghazwan dead.
Ghazwan, whose real name is Saad Ismael Abdul Salah al Hiyali, was a senior al Qaeda leader in the regions north of Baghdad in Salahadin and northern Baghdad province. He was a direct associate of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri.
In 2006 and 2007, Ghazwan led al Qaeda’s efforts to take control of Baghdad. He commanded the “northern Baghdad belt,” one of four regions surrounding the capital. Al Qaeda used these belts to control access to Baghdad and funnel money, weapons, car bombs, and fighters into the city. Al Qaeda also attempted to strangle the US helicopter air lanes by emplacing anti-aircraft cells along known routes.
The US military learned of al Qaeda’s plans for Baghdad’s belts after finding a crude map on the body of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s leader who was killed by US forces in Baqubah in June 2006.
The US military and Iraqi forces methodically attacked each of the belt regions during 2007, lifting the siege of Baghdad and crippling al Qaeda’s ability to launch massive car and truck bomb attacks that killed scores of Iraqis per attack.
As the leader of the northern Baghdad belt, Ghazwan commanded numerous al Qaeda cells in the Taji and Tarmiyah regions. Some of these cells were responsible for the recruitment and training of female and child suicide bombers. He also “advised and financed other terrorist cells throughout northern Iraq,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported.
Ghazwan’s group was known as the “Ghazwan Network.” This network “is known to commit robberies, kidnappings, murder, and is responsible for the Sept. 6, 2006 attack against a British Contractor convoy near Tarmiyah,” the US military said.
The US military has been hunting the Ghazwan and his network for well over a year. In September 0f 2007, US forces killed Abu Bakr, Ghazwan’s second in command. Bakr was described as “the gatekeeper for access to Abu Ghazwan himself.” In November of 2007, US forces killed Tha’ir Malik, Ghazwan’s subordinate and the emir of Tarmiyah.