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Iraq Report: Blackhawk Down, Anbar politics and Masyan under Iraqi control

The security situation remains relatively stable inside Baghdad for yet another day, while most of the major activity is occurring int eh provinces. A U.S. helicopter was downed south of Baghdad, possibly by al Qaeda anti aircraft fire as Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq. The Anbar Salvation Council will meet with Sunni tribes in Baghdad. Twenty-two Shia shepherds are kidnapped in the desert of Karbala and taken into Anbar. The southern province of Maysan has been turned over to the Iraqi security forces.

Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to target U.S. helicopters in an attempt to disrupt U.S. air operations. A U.S. Blackhawk helicopter was reportedly shot down by Al Qaeda gunfire in Latifiyah south of Baghdad, according to an anonymous Iraqi official. Al Qaeda "apparently were using anti-aircraft heavy machine gun," according to the same Iraqi official. Multinational Forces Iraq has not confirmed the helo was shot down, but reported a helo was downed and 4 of the nine personnel on board were injured.

Al Qaeda has set up anti aircraft teams in the belts around Baghdad, and have successfully shot down at least 5 U.S. helicopters. The U.S. has aggressively targeted al Qaeda's aircraft teams, which are using Strela missiles and DShK anti aircraft heavy machine guns. A recent raid in Arab Jabour south of Baghdad netted 6 DShKs, and another 5 DShKs were found in a raid in Karma.

Iraqi and Coalition forces captured 29 al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents over the past 24 hours. The Iraqi Army captured 10 suspected insurgents, including a cell commander, believed to be behind an IED cell in the Adhamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad. Iraqi police in Tal Afar captured two suspected insurgents thought to be behind attacks in Tal Afar. U.S. forces captured 17 al Qaeda nationwide, 4 in Baghdad and 13 in Karma, which remains a hotbed of insurgent activity.

On the political front, the Anbar Salvation Front will hold a meeting in Baghdad with the province's tribes to discuss the situation in Anbar province and integration in the political and security spheres. This is a continuation of Prime Minister Maliki's reconciliation program in Anbar province. The Iraqi government has ignored Anbar in teh past as it is a wellspring of the Sunni insurgency, so a meeting of the council in Baghdad represents a sea change in the government's position on the province.

In Karbala province, 22 Shia shepherds were kidnapped in a desert region and driven into Anbar province. "Witness Mohammed Abdul Kadhon, a brother of one of the hostages, told police the shepherds were being taken to Ameriyat al-Fallujah," reports the Middle East Times.

In the south, Iraqi security forces have officially assumed control of Maysan province. British troops are deployed in the province and will remain, but the Iraqi military will coordinate all military and police activity. Maysan is the 4th province to go under Iraqi military control. The three northern Kurdish provinces are essentially under provincial control, but this will not be official until the hydrocarbon laws are passed.

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