Iraq Report: Samarra mosque bombing ringleader killed
As Iraqi and US security forces are conducting clearing operations in Samarra, US Special Forces killed Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al Badri, al Qaeda's emir in Salahadin province. Al Badri was a high-value target who was behind the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Dome of the Al Askaria mosque in Samarra and this year's destruction of the two remaining minarets at the mosque. He was "in charge of an al Qaeda unit consisting of two Iraqis, four Saudis and a Tunisian," Reuters reported.
Al Badri was a dangerous individual who executed Abu Musab al Zarqawi's plan to divide Iraq on sectarian lines by striking at Shia targets to provoke sectarian reprisals. The 2006 bombing of the Al Askaria mosque kicked off a bloody wave of sectarian violence that threatened to push Iraq towards civil war. The destruction of the minarets failed to stoke a new round of sectarian violence as Iraqi and US forces deployed into the cities and Operation Phantom Thunder was launched shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, Iraqi and US security forces were active against al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army. The bulk of the engagements against al Qaeda are occurring in northern Iraq. Multiple operations in Kirkuk and the Tigris River Valley on Saturday resulted in 33 al Qaeda suspects captured, including the emir believed to administer sharia law in the northern Belts around Baghdad and a media emir in Kirkuk. On August 3, 17 al Qaeda operatives were captured in the Tigris River Valley, including associates of the sharia law emir in the northern Belts. Also, the al Qaeda commander of Mosul was killed by Iraqi troops on August 3.
On August 2, Coalition forces captured 22 al Qaeda operatives and killed four in operations nationwide. The sniper emir of Mosul and a media emir in Baghdad were captured during the raids. A raid in Mosul on August 1 resulted in the capture of four al Qaeda operatives, while another in Kirkuk resulted in the capture of five operatives, including the leader of a car bomb cell.
As the raids against al Qaeda are ongoing, Iraqi and Coalition forces target the Iranian-backed "rogue" Mahdi Army and Special Groups. Eighteen Special Groups operatives were captured and four killed during an early morning raid in Qasirin. "The Special Groups operatives are suspected of coordinating logistical support from Iran for rogue Jaysh al Mahdi [Mahdi Army] elements and Special Groups operating in Iraq," the Multinational Forces Iraq press release stated. "The captured Special Groups operatives are also believed to have been involved in improvised explosive device attacks and explosively formed penetrator [EFP] attacks against Coalition Forces."
On August 3, the Iraqi Army and US special operations forces advisors killed three members of the Mahdi Army and captured another four in an operation in Diwaniyah. On July 31, the Iraqi Army and US Special Forces captured three "terrorists with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) from Iran" during a raid in Shulah. Four Shia insurgents were also killed in the raid. "The captured suspected terrorists are believed to be key players in a major facilitation network for smuggling weapons and components of Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) from Iran into Iraq to be used against Coalition Forces," the Multinational Forces Iraq press said. Four members of the Mahdi Army were also captured in Baghdad on July 31.