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Baghdad Offensive Gains Ground

Over the course of the past week the Iraqi government’s “Operation Together Forward” - a neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep-and-hold operation - has moved on following a promising start in the neighborhood of Ameriya to include Ghazalia, Kadhimiya, Mansour and Nura (see our recent report, Second Battle of Baghdad Underway, for background). Although some terrorist attacks have still gotten through, indications now are that while July was Baghdad’s worst month, August has seen lower daily rates of both attacks and casualties. Estimated attacks per day have declined from 52 to 31 (MNF-I).

Last week started reasonably well with the commemoration of the Shi’a religious festival of Musa, celebrating the life and martyrdom of Musa bin Jafar al-Kadhim, the seventh imam. While a sniper attack managed to kill at least 20 of the pilgrims, given that there were hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and the scale of recent violence, the attack was not nearly as deadly as it perhaps might have otherwise been. More deadly was this past weekend, when a series of attacks killed at least 60.

A number of important operations have been conducted in Baghdad and other areas in the center of the country. As recounted by Major General William Caldwell at an August 22 press conference:

In Ramadi, coalition forces captured a Saudi al Qaeda member who was actively conducting terrorist activities. During the early morning raid, one terrorist was captured and 14 others detained. The raid uncovered a suicide vest, multiple small arms and armament, along with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Two more wanted terrorists were detained in another Ramadi operation. One was associated with harboring and transporting senior foreign al Qaeda leaders into Iraq…

In the Baghdad area, recent raids led to the capturing of a suspected IED cell leader, who was also suspected of a shooting death of one Iraqi interpreter and one coalition force soldier, as well as two others, wanted al Qaeda terrorists, believed to have had direct association with several recent vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices here in the city of Baghdad. Operations in Arabjabu (ph) led to the capture of two wanted terrorists associated with a senior al Qaeda and Iraq leader and part of the cell specializing in bomb making and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Again, all associated with attacks here in the city of Baghdad.

Near Tikrit, two terrorists and three suspects were captured, one who reportedly controlled the 40 other terrorists in the area. Credible intelligence also indicated that his terrorist cell is involved in the movement of foreign fighters into Gogee (ph) area. Reliable intelligence also indicates that the other terrorists captured in Tikrit is directly linked to the February 22nd bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra…

Convicted insurgents and terrorists then enter the Iraqi Correctional Services to serve their sentences. To date, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq has held 1,365 trials of insurgents suspected of anti-Iraq and anti-coalition activities threatening the security of this country. These proceedings have resulted in 1,171 individual convictions with sentences ranging up to death…

MNF-I provides further information on Baghdad operations in the Doura area. This is of some special significance because in recent months Iraqi security officials have identified Doura as being an area of open and intense sectarian conflict. The most important operations in the Baghdad area this weekend seemed to be an expansion of the offensive to the Adhamiya area in northeast Baghdad on Sunday.

On August 22, the Karbala News Agency reported on “steps decided upon by American forces” to reinforce security in Baghdad and “direct overwhelming military strikes against the Mahdi Army of the Sadr faction.” The KNA has an anti-American bent and joint U.S.-Iraqi plans to strengthen security were framed in this article as an American plan achieve control over Baghdad, but it is positive to see that the perception of reinforcement is there. That some Iraqis take such reports as credible should be borne in mind by those who are surprised by resentment of coalition efforts to bring security to Iraq.

Yesterday Iraqi forces engaged in a fierce series of gunbattles with the Mahdi Army in Diwaniya, the capital of the province of Al-Qudasiya. The fight began when Iraqi forces arrested a major militia leader, attempting to enforce the government’s policy that Shi’a militias should disband and be replaced by legitimate security forces. Western and Arab news reports were in conflict as to the result, although the Iraqi newspaper Al-Rafidayn reported that there was a ceasefire in which the militia formally recognized government control of the city. An initial military report also gave limited information. ThreatsWatch will provide a fuller analysis of this important engagement once more information is available.