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Iraq Report: Senior al Qaeda leaders captured in Anbar, Karbala, Baghdad bridge bombed

U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain the pressure on al Qaeda and the insurgency nationwide. Combined U.S. and Iraqi raids inside Baghdad led to 129 captured insurgents and the discovery of two bomb factories over the past 48 hours. Iraqi security forces, with the help of the Anbar Salvation Council, killed Ahmad Hadid, the leader "Islamic State in Fallujah," and Ibrahim Keitan, Al-Qaeda's military coordinator in Al-Anbar. An American military intelligence official tells us Ahmad Hadid is the brother of the notorious Omar Hadid, Abu Musab al Zarqawi's right hand man in Fallujah until he was killed in Novermber of 2004. Thirty-seven al Qaeda were captured in Fallujah, 6 in Amiriya and another 11 were captured along the Euphrates River Valley.

Coalition raids in Taji, Mosul, Baghdad and Amiriya netted 17 al Qaeda, including the "al-Qaeda emir of Rusafa and former vehicle-borne improvised explosive device cell leader." In Basra, British troops killed 8 members of two roadside bomb teams as they were in the process of planting IEDs. On March 11, Iraqi police captured 2 members of a cell thought to be "responsible for planning and building improvised explosive devices containing chlorine."

Al Qaeda has conducted two more high visibility suicide attacks, one in Baghdad and another in the Shia holy city of Karbala. A suicide car bomber murdered 47 Iraqis and wounded scores more just several hundred yards from the Imam Ali mosque in Karbala, while another suicide car bomber destroyed a bridge in Baghdad. The Jadriyah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river, is the second bridge attacked by al Qaeda in Iraq just this week. Ten were killed and fifteen wounded in the Jadriyah bridge bombing.

Under the readership of Abu Ayyub al-Masri Al Qaeda in Iraq is proving agile in its ability to switch targets in Baghdad while continuing to strike at sectarian fault lines outside the capital. Prior to this week, al Qaeda's last major bombing inside Baghdad was in a Shia market on March 29. With security ramping up inside Baghdad, markets appear to have become tougher targets. The attack on the bridges will at the least increase the security, and may force the their closure.

As al Qaeda continues its suicide campaign in an attempt to break the Coalition, the Sunni insurgency continues to show further signs of fracturing. "Citing 'reliable sources from a number of factions of the Iraqi national resistance, al-Hayat reports that the new coordinating office is aimed at isolating the Islamic State of Iraq and 'all hard-line factions that trade in the blood of Muslims.'" This follows the Islamic Army in Iraq's announcement that it was severing ties with al Qaeda. It should be noted that insurgent groups are fracturing over this issue, with the more extreme elements being absorbed by al Qaeda.

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