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Daily Iraq Report for March 21, 2007

Significant operations occurred in the cities of Anbar province and Diyala while Baghdad remians relatively quiet. Only one significant suicide attack occurred in the city over the past 24 hours, while Iraqi and U.S. security forces found a fuel tanker filled with explosives and destroyed it. Meanwhile, the news that al Qaeda is using children in suicide attacks is nothing new.

In the town of Amiriya, tribal fighters of the Anbar Salvation Council, backed by Iraqi police, Army and U.S. air support, beat of a concerted attack of al Qaeda fighters. Thirty-nine al Qaeda were killed and 7 captured after a large formation of over 100 al Qaeda fighters operating under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq attacked the town, which is south of the city of Fallujah in Anbar province.

This is the second major ground assault by al Qaeda in Amiriya in the last 3 weeks, and the third attack overall. Last weekend, Amiriya was one of three targets of al Qaeda's chlorine gas suicide attack. Al Qaeda is clear targeting a senior leader of the Anbar Salvation Council in the town.

Also in Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council conducted a large scale clearing operation in the restive city of Ramadi. "Coordinating between several stations within his district, Brig. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim Hamadi, chief of the Ramadi District Police, personally led more than 500 policemen as they conducted house-to-house searches in the capital city of Al Anbar Province," according to the Public Affairs Office in Ramadi. Forty-five suspected insurgents were detained during the operation, while one civilian was killed during an IED attack. Police "confiscated propaganda material and discovered several caches containing assault rifles, machine guns, and mortar and artillery shells used to produce improvised explosive devices."

In Fallujah, al Qaeda's Islamic State in Iraq claimed credit for destroying an Iraqi military outpost. Casualty reports are conflicting, with anywhere from 2 to 20 killed during the attack. The Anbar Salvation Council has expanded its reach into Fallujah, and al Qaeda is pressing back. Both Fallujah and Ramadi were also targets of last weekend's chlorine gas attack.

In Diyala province, where al Qaeda has regrouped after fleeing Baghdad, American forces are reported to have freed over 200 hostages in Muqdadiya, according to the Iraqi Buratha News Agency. Many of those freed were Iraqi police. Al Qaeda has been working to dismantle the police in Diyala province, and have had success in neighboring Duluiyah, where 5 of 8 police stations were destroyed and the police either were coopted into the terrorist group or disbanded.

Nationwide, U.S. forces captured 23 "during raids targeting foreign fighter facilitator and al Qaeda in Iraq networks" in the cities of Balad, Taji, Abu Ghraib and Mosul. Al Qaeda and insurgent bomb factories remain a high priority, as the car bombs are one of their greatest weapons. "Coalition Forces killed five terrorists, destroyed a bomb-making factory and detained three suspected terrorists during an operation Wednesday near Taji," notes a Multinational Forces Iraq press release. " Inside the building, Coalition Forces found large caliber ammunition and explosive manufacturing materials including numerous 50-gallon barrels of explosive material."

Inside Baghdad, Al Qaeda pulled off a successful suicide car bomb attack. "At least four Iraqis were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device March 20 in an eastern segment of the Iraqi capital," reports Multinational Forces Iraq. "The attack occurred around 11:20 a.m. when a taxi packed with mortar rounds plowed into a crowd in the al-Sheik Omar area."

This attack comes as news that al Qaeda is using children as props in their suicide operations. During a suicide attack Sunday, a car with two adults and two children made it through a checkpoint, and was subsequently blown up near a market in Adamiya. "Children in the back seat, lower suspicion, we let it move through," said Major General Michael Barbero during a press briefing yesterday. "They park the vehicle, the adults run out and detonate it with the children in the back ... the brutality and ruthless nature of this enemy hasn't changed."

Sadly, this is not a new tactic. Al Qaeda has used children in suicide strikes in the past. In perhaps one of the most egregious exploitation of children, al Qaeda turned a child with Downs Syndrome into a suicide bomber during the January 2005 election. These special, innocent children are but tools to be discarded by al Qaeda in their quest to kill Iraqis.

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