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Iraq Report: Major operation against AQI network, Sadr's silence

Today was yet another relatively quiet day inside Baghdad. There were no major, mass casualty bombings, the largest acts of violence was a roadside bomb which killed two. The U.S. Army launched an artillery barrage at targets in "a known Sunni stronghold" but there is no further information on the targets or casualties.

Coalition forces - also known as Task Force 145, the hunter killer teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda command cells - conducted a "massive synchronized effort" against al Qaeda in Iraq's network nationwide. Seventy-two al Qaeda operatives were detained during raids in Anbar province and Salahadin provinces. Thirty-six al Qaeda were captured in the city of Samarra, while "20 five-gallon drums of nitric acid and other bomb-making materials" were found near the insurgent riddled city of Karma in Anbar. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced that it killed 2 insurgents and detained 112 during operations across Iraq over the past 24 hours.

U.S. and Iraqi forces are maintaining the pressure on Muqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Today, a U.S. force raided a Sadr office in the Kadhmiya district, and arrested those inside. A gunfight ensued but there is no word of casualties. Yesterday, Coalition forces captured 4 Mahdi Army fighters in Sadr city, and on Thursday, Coalition forces killed three Mahdi militiamen during a running gun battle inside Sadr City. The operation targeted "a network that trains terrorists for operations in Iraq."

Last year, each and every raid inside Sadr city or against a Mahdi Army target created a political crisis for Prime Minister Maliki's embattled government. Since the beginning of the Baghdad Security Plan and Sadr's subsequent flight from Iraq, the Coalition and Iraqi military have operated unchecked against Sadr's political front and the Mahdi Army. Raids such as those conducted against Sadr's backers have failed to elicit a response from Sadr's political apparatus.

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