Iraq Report: Qods in Iraq
As US and Iraqi security forces have stepped up operations against Sunni and Shia extremist groups in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch stated there are about 50 members of Iran™s elite Qods Force operating inside Iraq to arm and train groups such as the "rogue"� Mahdi Army and the Special Groups terror cells. "We are concerned primarily about the training of Shia extremists,"� Lynch said in the briefing on August 19. "We think there are about 50 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards"� in his area of operations.
Lynch is the commander of Multinational Division Central, which controls the provinces south of Baghdad, including several that border Iran. "The border [between Iran and Iraq] is porous and they [Qods Force members] come back and forth all the time ... they are physically there," Lynch said. The border in Wasit province is particularly porous, and the US military is conducting operations to stem the flow of Iranian weapons and operatives through this region. An additional 2,000 troops from the Republic of Georgia have begun to deploy in Wasit to assist with the mission. The US has been aggressively targeting the Iranian-backed Shia terror cells since the spring of 2007.
Just days after the 1920s Revolution Brigades fought along side Iraqi police in Buhriz, the Diyala Salvation Council announced "the completion of all preparations to open 12 offices inside the province's five districts: Baqubah, Khalis, Muqdadiya, Balad Ruz, Khanqin," Voices of Iraq reported. "The new branches will coordinate between tribes and government departments, mainly security departments (police and army)," a member of the council told Voices of Iraq. After the Anbar Salvation Council showed success in Anbar province, similar councils have been established in Diyala, Salahadin, Babil, and Ninewa.
In the city of Khalis in Diyala province, insurgents targeted a market with 16 mortars. Three civilians were killed and 22 wounded in the attack. Over 16,000 US and Iraq troops are conducting Operation Lightning Hammer, which is targeting al Qaeda's network north and east of Baqubah.
Hunting al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army
US and Iraqi forces continue the hunt for al Qaeda and Shia terror operatives. Fourteen al Qaeda operatives were captured during raids in Baghdad, Taji, Balad, Samarra, and Mosul on August 16 and 17. Two al Qaeda operatives were killed and 16 captured during operations in Baghdad, Tarmiyah, Bayji, Tikrit, Kirkuk, and Mosul on August 18. The Bayji raid netted "an alleged weapons and logistics facilitator" while the Tikrit raid resulted in the capture of an "operative believed to move large amounts of explosives and foreign terrorists into Iraq." Three al Qaeda were killed and 21 captured during a series of raids in Muqdadiyah, Tarmiyah, and Salahadin province on August 19.
In Baghdad, Iraqi security forces captured a Mahdi Army sniper cell leader and weapons facilitator, along with a cell member, and killed another. In a separate raid, Iraqi troops captured a financial backer of al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq.
In Tarmiyah, which is about 25 miles north of Baghdad in Salahadin province, Coalition forces killed 13 al Qaeda operatives and captured 12 during a raid on August 17 designed to capture an "al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader who provides guidance to senior terrorist leaders." Coalition forces killed the 12 terrorists after a series of clashes in the city and engaged them with sniper and close air support. Also in Tarmiyah, a US helicopter crew targeted two insurgents on the roof of a mosque. Insurgents have been using the mosque to attack US forces in the city since May. Iraqi soldiers also raided a mosque near Balad on August 18 after intelligence indicated it was being used to support the insurgency.