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Iraq Report: Al Qaeda strikes in Baghdad

After a lull of several weeks in major mass casualty suicide attack inside Baghdad, al Qaeda in Iraq struck three times against Iraqi civilians over the past 24 hours. Yesterday's attacks occurred during the celebration of the Iraqi soccer team's victory at the Asia Games, which advanced the club to the finals.

Two suicide bombers, sitting in parked cars, struck within a half hour of each other. At least 50 Iraqis were killed and 130 wounded in the dual attacks in the Mansour district in the west and the Ghadeer neighborhood in the east. Today's car bomb attack in the eastern district of Karradah resulted in at least 20 Iraqi civilians killed and 60 wounded.

The attacks on the Iraqis celebrating the soccer victory are classic terrorist events. Al Qaeda piggybacked off of a rare moment of national unity and grabbed the media headlines by turning a positive story into one of despair. The two suicide bombs sat in parked cars, instead of detonating their bombs remotely. Al Qaeda wanted to put its signature on this attack. Also, al Qaeda in Iraq demonstrated that while its capacity for large strikes may have diminished, it still possesses the ability to attack inside Baghdad.

Despite al Qaeda's successful attacks in Baghdad, Coalition and Iraq forces continue efforts to degrade al Qaeda in Iraq's command network, as well as its facilitators and IED cells continue. U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces captured 61 suspected al Qaeda in Iraq operatives during targeted raids nationwide over the past two days. Wednesday's raids in Mosul, Tarmiyah, Samarra, and Baghdad resulted 20 al Qaeda operatives detained, including the administrative emir for Mosul and an IED cell leader in Tarmiyah. Iraqi Special Operations Forces also captured a car bomb cell leader in the Jamia neighborhood in Baghdad. Today's raids in Tarmiyah, Taji, and Mosul resulted in 36 operatives detained.

Iraqi and U.S. forces maintain the pressure on the Shia terror cells as well. Two cell leaders were captured over the past several days. A raid near Hillah on July 23 resulted in the capture of the leader of the Mahdi Army "political wing in Al Imam responsible for emplacing improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators along supply routes targeting Iraqi and Coalition Forces."

A raid in southwestern Baghdad on July 25 resulted in the capture of a Mahdi Army cell commander "allegedly responsible for the death squad killings of more than 150 Sunni Arab Iraqis."

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