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Iraq Report: Sunni insurgents vs. al Qaeda in Diyala

Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to face opposition from Sunni insurgent groups. In the Buhriz district in Diyala province, the 1920s Revolution Brigades assisted Iraqi police in fending off an attack of upwards of 60 al Qaeda fighters. Multinational Forces Iraq identified the Sunni insurgents as the "Baqubah Guardians," however IraqSlogger reported the al-Ishreen Revolution Brigades (1920s Revolution Brigades) engaged in the fight. Multinational Forces Iraq described the fighting, and notes the coordination between the insurgent group, the local police, and US attack helicopters:

In an unprecedented combined action in Diyala Province, Iraqi police and citizen volunteers defeated a coordinated attack of approximately 40-60 al-Qaeda terrorists in the southern Burhitz area of Baqubah, Wednesday, and killed an estimated 21 insurgents, wounding more.

As the terrorists entered the city of Burhitz, a group of concerned local citizens, called 'Baqubah Guardians,™ and IPs stationed in Burhitz engaged the first wave of attackers, killing seven. At least two suicide bombers were killed before they reached their intended targets, with the bomb vests detonating prematurely.

The IP notified the Provincial Joint Coordination Center and requested Coalition Force attack helicopter support after the first engagement. Attack helicopters arrived and engaged another large group of heavily armed fighters staging near the first attack site, killing or wounding an estimated 14 terrorists.

The 1920s Revolution Brigades previous drove al Qaeda in Iraq out of Buhriz, with the help of US forces. The battles between the 1920s Revolution Brigades and al Qaeda began in April. The Anbar Salvation Council, through its ties in the 1920s Revolution Brigades, helped organize the anti-al Qaeda resistance in Buhriz. As these groups work with the US and Iraqi security forces, they are being integrated as local police or as provincial security forces.

The degree to which Sunni insurgent groups have turned against al Qaeda and are working with US troops and Iraqi security forces is an underreported story in the war. Approximately 25,000 Sunni insurgents from groups such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades, the Jaysh Mohammed, and the Islamic Army of Iraq have turned against al Qaeda at the behest of their tribal leaders. "Tribe members and others who agree to support Iraq's government have to sign a pledge form and consent to biometric scans of their fingerprints and retinas so their data can be kept on file," USA Today reported on August 6. "They are also vetted by the Iraqi government."

The strategy of turning the tribes and insurgent groups has been successful in Anbar, and is being applied inside Baghdad, Diyala, Salahadin, Ninewa, and Babil province. This is reconciliation at the micro level. Al Qaeda is threatened by this development and is actively targeting members of groups that have turned on them.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's heinous multiple suicide on the Yazidi villages near Singar in Ninewa province on Tuesday is the single greatest mass casualty strike since the war began. The initial reports of 175 killed have climbed to at least 400 killed, with the Kuwaiti News Agency reporting over 500 killed and 375 wounded.

Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, warns that it is too soon to know the death toll. "So far the accounting of casualties has been very speculative," said Col .Twitty. "The villagers and rescue workers are still trying to find those missing; and their efforts, and those of the local, provincial and central government leadership, along with the ISF here, have been tremendous." Multinational Forces Iraq estimates are 275 killed and 400 wounded.

The Kurdish Regional Government has stepped in and deployed about two companies, numbering about 340 troops total, of the Kurdish Regional Guards to provide additional security in the region. US troops and Iraqi Army soldiers from the 3rd Division are providing assistance to the recovery effort, and US air assets are providing air transportation to the wounded.

Elsewhere in the North, two civilians were killed and 33 wounded in a simultaneous, dual roadside bombing strike in the city of Kirkuk. The attacks bear the hallmark of al Qaeda in Iraq, which has been working to stir up sectarian tensions since Iraqi and Coalition launched major offensives against the terror group starting June 15.

US and Iraqi security forces have launched two sweeps against al Qaeda in the North since the bombings in the Yazidi villages. Iraqi soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, which is based in northern Ninewa province, captured seven suspected terrorists in the village of Abu Bareyj on August 14. Iraqi security forces captured eight terrorists during raids in Mosul and the Hamrin Ridge region. A sniper cell leader in Mosul and the leader of an Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist smuggling cell in the Hamrin Ridge region were among those captured during the raids. Further south in Balad, US forces killed six al Qaeda operatives and captured 26 during a series of operations from August 9-14.

On the Shia terror group front, Coalition forces captured "a highly sought Special Groups weapons facilitator before dawn Thursday northeast of Baghdad." Three Special Groups operatives were killed and five others were captured during the raid. "The captured high priority individual was responsible for smuggling explosively formed penetrators (EFP), Katusha rockets and other weapons from Iran into Iraq," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "The target was also responsible for the distribution of those weapons to Special Groups and extremist militants operating throughout Baghdad. The weapons smuggler had direct ties to senior militant leaders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force." The Special Groups are essential Iraqi-born Qods force operatives.

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