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Iraq Report: Karbala aftermath

Three days after Muqtada al Sadr called for the Mahdi Army to stand down after clashes in Karbala, it is unclear if the order has had an effect on keeping the Mahdi Army on the sidelines. The Mahdi Army has withdrawn from the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City, while Iraqi troops were reported to have secured the entrances to the Baghdad district. But violence was reported against Sadr's rivals in Najaf, as an aide to Grand Ayatollah Sistani was murdered in Basra and attacks on offices of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council were reported in Najaf.

Iraqi security forces locked down Karbala immediately after the clashes on August 29. At least 50 were killed and upwards of 300 wounded after Mahdi Army fighters clashed with police. The Iraqi security forces arrested 72 suspects within 24 hours of the fighting, and imposed a curfew in the city. A partial curfew has also been imposed in Najaf.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki headed to Karbala within a day of the fighting and fired the city's police commander, along with 1,500 police for "professional incompetence." Security for the two Shia shrines in Karbala has been handed over to the Iraqi Army.

As the confrontation between the Mahdi Army and government forces in Karbala came to a head, US and Iraq troops continued to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq and the Shia extremists in the Mahdi Army and the Special groups. In Baghdad, Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured an al Qaeda emir and cell member on August 30, while US soldiers captured 24 suspected insurgents during a sweep in New Baghdad on August 31.

On August 28, Iraqi troops captured five al Qaeda cell members in Muelha and 11 insurgents near Taji. On August 29, Marines killed 12 al Qaeda fighters after detecting movement in the town of Karma. Raids in Baqubah, Mosul, and Tarmiyah and near Samarra on August 30 resulted in two al Qaeda operatives killed and nine captured.

On August 31, Coalition forces killed five al Qaeda operatives and captured 13 during raids in the Tigris River Valley, including a suspected key leader in Baghdad™s car-bombing network and the administrative emir of Haditha. Four more al Qaeda operatives were killed and 10 captured on August 31 during operations in Baghdad and the northern Belts. On September 1, raids in Taji, Tarmiyah, and Mosul resulted in three al Qaeda killed and five captured.

Eight members of the Iranian-backed Special Groups terror cells were captured on September 1. Two "leaders of Special Groups responsible for logistical facilitation of Iranian weapons and lethal aid flowing into Iraq" were captured during this raid. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured 11 "Shia extremists" during raids in Karbala on August 29 and 30, "One of the detained Shi™a extremists is linked to the Aug. 22 assassination of the mayor of Husaniyah," Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

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