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Iraq Report: al Qaeda Strikes at the Seams

As Iraqi and Coalition forces press forward with Operation Phantom Thunder in the Baghdad Belts, al Qaeda conducted its first coordinated counter attack. Five separate suicide strikes Baghdad, Babil and in the north resulted in up to 45 deaths. The most effective strike targeted members of the Anbar Salvation Council who were meeting in Baghdad.

A suicide bomber penetrated 3 levels of security at the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad and murdered four leaders of the Anbar Salvation Council. The Associated Press identified the leaders as "former Anbar governor Fassal al-Guood, sheik of the al-Bu Nimir tribe, Sheik Abdul-Azizi al-Fahdawi of the Fahad tribe, Sheik Tariq Saleh al-Assafi and Col. Fadil al-Nimrawi, both of the al-Bu Nimr tribe."

The Albu Fahd recently renounced al Qaeda and joined the Anbar Salvation Council. The Albu Nimr, who are based out of Hit, have resisted joining the council in the past, but have fought against al Qaeda.

Three of the four remaining attacks occurred in the north: two in or near Bayji, and one in Mosul. The two attacks in Bayji occurred against joint police and U.S. Army security stations. U.S. and Iraqi troops beat off the ground attack that followed. The final attack occurred in Hillah, and also targeted a police station.

Iraqi and Coalition forces remain on the offensive in the Baghdad Belts. In Diyala province, the focus of Operation Arrowhead Strike, the Iraqi Army stated it captured 37 al Qaeda operatives, including two Qataris, on Saturday. "Iraqi security forces now have a control over eight neighborhoods in Baaquba," according to the Voice of Iraq report.

Iraqi and U.S. forces found a "torture chamber and illegal courthouse linked to al-Qaida" during operations in the city. "Since the beginning of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, at least 58 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 60 have been detained, 23 weapons caches have been discovered, 52 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 17 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Upwards of 60 percent of the city is now confirmed under Iraqi and Coalition control, with portions of the western section of the city still to be cleared.

In Northern Babil province, Operations Marne Torch and Commando Eagle continue. On June 23, Coalition forces detained four suspects, destroyed two trucks and two barges used to transport insurgents and equipment, and found two weapons caches during operations south of Salman Pak. Coalition forces also detained 19 members of an IED cell near Mahmudiyah. The cell is believed to have brought down a bridge in northern Babil.

In the north, Coalition forces killed al Qaeda's emir of western Mosul. Khalid Sultan Khulayf Shakir al-Badrani, also known as Abu Abdullah, "had a direct hand in numerous terrorist activities in the area, including kidnappings, suicide bombings and attacks on Coalition Forces," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "In 2005, he facilitated the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into Mosul for al-Qaeda in Iraq operations." Al Qaeda in Iraq has experienced a revival of sorts in Ninewa province after it absorbed Ansar al Sunnah, an allied Islamist group which has sworn bayat, or allegiance, to Osama bin Laden. U.S. and Iraqi forces also dismantled an IED factory in Mosul after receiving a tip from locals.

In and around Baghdad, Coalition and Iraqi forces are conducting raids while continuing with clearing operations. The latest series of raids against al Qaeda's network focused on "central Iraq." Forty-three al Qaeda operatives were captured during Monday's raids. Operations are ongoing in the southern district of Rashid, one of the most dangerous areas of Baghdad. Meanwhile, a targeted raid in the Adhamiyah District resulted in the capture of two suspected insurgents responsible for a deadly IED attack just days ago.

Coalition forces maintain pressure on the Iranian backed "secret cells" of the Qazali Network. A raid in Sadr City resulted in the death of "four Secret Cell terrorists."

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