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Iraq Report: Tribes in Khalis pledge to fight al Qaeda

The U.S. military and the Iraqi government continue to court the tribes in the provinces surrounding Baghdad. One day after the tribes in the city of Taji in Salahadin province pledged to fight al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, a tribal meeting was held in the city of Khalis in Diyala province. Seventy-five tribal leaders gathered and vowed to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, its Islamic State front, and other insurgent groups. "Here, right now, I am denouncing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Qaeda," said one sheikh in attendance.

As the tribes turn on al Qaeda and its false Islamic State of Iraq, the targeted raids against al Qaeda in Iraq's network of facilitators, bomb makes and leadership cells continue. Today's raids by Coalition forces resulted in the capture in 20 al Qaeda operatives. A series of raids near Taji in Salahadin province resulted in 16 al Qaeda captured, including "a foreign terrorist suspected of involvement in the May 2007 Samarra suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack," while another four operatives were captured near Balad.

On July 23, Iraqi security forces stuck an al Qaeda training facility and safe house at an old Iraqi military base near Karma in eastern Anbar province. The raid resulted in the death of an al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader and the capture of seven insurgents. Karma is one of the few remaining safe havens for al Qaeda in Anbar province.

Two more raids in the north in Niwena province resulted in the capture of six al Qaeda operatives on July 21 and 22. The July 21 operation in the village of Bazran in Mosul resulted in the capture of five suspected terrorists. The July 22 operation resulted in the capture of an IED and kidnapping financier. In both cases, the Iraqi Army worked with U.S. Special Forces.

On July 18, U.S. Special Forces worked with elements of the newly formed 11th Iraqi Army Division and captured two members of al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq. The tow insurgents are believed to have been behind the July 18 roadside bombing that killed U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in eastern Baghdad.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, U.S. troops killed three insurgents while they were emplacing a roadside bomb in the Rashid district on July 21. U.S. troops are currently in the process of clearing operations in the Rashid district. Also, U.S. forces captured seven insurgents during a raid in the eastern neighborhood of Zafaraniya.

North of Baghdad in the city of Husseiniyah, which straddles the highway between the capital and Baqubah, U.S. forces have cordoned the city, as the Mahdi Army has dug in to fight. While the news accounts claim the tensions rose after an airstrike over the weekend, Multinational Forces Iraq said the confrontation began on June 13, when al Qaeda attacked the Golden Mosque in Samarra and destroyed the minarets. The Mahdi Army assembled earthen barriers to prevent Coalition forces from operating in the city. "The dirt mounds block access by [Coalition Forces] into Husseiniyah and interrupt continued assistance of policing, governance and essential services," according to the press release.

South of Baghdad, in the city of Hillah in Babil province, al Qaeda in Iraq conducted a successful suicide car bombing. A suicide bomber detonated his weapon outside of a children's hospital, killing at least 26 Iraqis and wounding over 69. Most of those killed and wounded were women and children, an Iraqi policeman told AFP.

As the Baghdad Security Plan and Operation Phantom Thunder have progressed, the large majority of the mass suicide attacks have occurred in the provinces. Most of the bombings in Baghdad over the past month have been in the single digits in those killed in the attacks. Part of the goal of the Baghdad Security Plan is to reduce the major attacks in the capital, and the plan has succeeded in this respect thus far.

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