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Daily Iraq Report for March 20, 2007

Yesterday was the 4 year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and predictably, al Qaeda conducted a concerted attack to mark the event. Al Qaeda, however, had to settle for Kirkuk, not Baghdad, for its show of force. As we noted yesterday, the Kirkuk attack was a coordinated car bomb and roadside bomb attack that cause massed casualties in the flash point city where Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen are positioning for control over the city. Al Qaeda also struck at a Shia mosque in Baghdad. The two attacks generated the desired propaganda for al Qaeda, and also serve to stoke tensions between Iraq's ethnic groups. Al Qaeda still seeks to reignite the Sunni - Shia sectarian war.

The car bomb still remains the most powerful weapon in al Qaeda's arsenal. Al Qaeda and insurgents conducted a series of bombings in Baghdad today: a car bomb at a police station (5 killed, 17 wounded); a car bomb at a bridge in Karrada (3 killed, 7 wounded); and a bus bombing in Baghdad (3 wounded).

But the lower numbers of casualties in the attacks may be attributed to the increased security in the city. In the past, the most devastating bombs were placed on large trucks - dump trucks, fuel tankers, and other large vehicles. Mohammad Fadhil, an Iraqi blogger who lives in Baghdad, notes the number of checkpoints in the city are increasing rapidly. "With the constant force buildup many streets now host multiple checkpoints, both fixed and mobile," notes Mr. Fadhil. "All are positioned in a manner that allows soldiers in one to have visual contact with those in the next one. From my personal experience I can tell that the men staffing the checkpoints do not take their job lightly."

On the political front, the Iraqi government executed Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam Hussein's vice-president. Ramadan was executed "for his role in the killing of 148 Shia Iraqis in Dujail." While there was much talk of increased violence in Iraq due to Saddam's execution last December, there was no appreciable increase in violence that could be tracked back to his execution, despite the circus that ensued during the process.

Coalition forces continue the hunt for al Qaeda in Iraq operatives. Raids in Abu Ghraib and Mosul netted 9 suspects on March 20, including an operative that "reportedly procures chemicals for the production of improvised explosive devices" in Mosul.

On the new Multinational Forces Iraq YouTube Channel, MNF-I published a video of U.S. forces tracking and destroying an insurgent mortar team of seven men. U.S. air assets track the insurgent mortar team as they fire, break down the mortar, get into the car and travel back to their base of operations, where the vehicle is destroyed and the entire team is killed. The U.S. has a clear advantage in the air, which explains why al Qaeda in Iraq has been working to bring anti aircraft weapons to the field.

The Islamic State in Iraq, al Qaeda's political front, is conducting its own propaganda campaign on the Internet. Al Qaeda release a video purporting to show a terrorist walking up to a Bradly Infantry Fighting Vehicle with a bomb, crawling under it an planting and subsequently detonating the bomb.

Richard Hernandez disputes the authenticity of the video, and provides a snap analysis of the tape. IraqSlogger said contacts in Multinational Forces Iraq "examined the video closely but say they have no record of such an attack on a Bradley in Iraq.

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