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Iraq Report: Targeting the networks

Operation Phantom Strike, the effort to disrupt al Qaeda and Shia terror cells throughout Iraq continues even as al Qaeda in Iraq is launching its counteroffensive ahead of the Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus' September report to Congress on the state of Iraq. Coalition and Iraqi security forces struck over the past few days at al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed Shia terror networks.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi government imposed an "indefinite ban" on driving as Shiite pilgrims are heading to Karbala on foot to commemorate a yearly holiday in the holy city. Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated a bomb near the Kadamiyah Shrine in Baghdad, killing five and wounding 27.

Al Qaeda in Iraq

Iraqi and Coalition security forces are maintaining the pressure on al Qaeda™s networks with daily raids aimed at senior leaders, operatives, and facilitators of al Qaeda in Iraq's network. Three al Qaeda operatives were killed and 17 captured during raids in Muqdadiyah, Samarra, Bayji, Arab Jabour, and Baghdad on August 25. The raid in Arab Jabour led to the capture of the "terrorist cell leader in the Arab Jabour area, believed to oversee 20 explosives experts, and five of his suspected associates." Raids in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Tarmiyah, and Mosul on August 24 targeted al Qaeda in Iraq's car bombing network. Two operatives were killed and 18 captured. Raids in Baqubah, Mosul, Bayji, and Muqdadiyah on August 23 resulted in one al Qaeda operative killed and 10 captured.

Iraqi and Coalition forces also captured or killed numerous al Qaeda operatives during individual raids and operations throughout Iraq from August 21 to 25. On August 24, Iraqi troops captured an emir and intelligence officer along with seven operatives in two raids in Abu Ghraib and in northern Baghdad.

On August 22, Coalition forces captured an Egyptian al Qaeda operative who ran an IED cell in Arab Jabour. "He was born in Egypt but came to Iraq in the early 1980s and later joined al-Qaeda fighters," Multinational Forces Iraq noted. "He has Iraqi citizenship and believed to be a former high ranking official of the Ba™ath party during Saddam Hussein™s reign."

Another raid on August 22 in Kubaysah in western Iraq netted an al Qaeda operative behind a helicopter shoot-down in 2004 who currently runs a sniper and IED cell. Three al Qaeda fighters were captured during a raid on terrorist safe houses in Bulayj. On August 21, US troops detained nine Iraqi policemen in the Rashid district of Baghdad believed to be involved in an IED attack near their police checkpoint, along with two al Qaeda in Iraq operatives.

Surge operations have also uncovered al Qaeda prisons and murder sites. Two such sites have been uncovered over the past several days. The first site was found in the Arab Jabour area, and used by al Qaeda to execute enemies, dump bodies, and build roadside bombs. Eight al Qaeda suspects were captured and one was killed in the raid. The second site, near Khan Bani Sa™ad, was used by al Qaeda to imprison civilians. Three terrorists were killed in a helicopter attack on the site, and seven prisoners, who showed evidence of having been tortured by their capturers, escaped.

Shia Terror Groups

Iraqi Special Operations Forces have taken a leading role in hunting the Iranian-backed rogue Mahdi Army cells and Special Groups. On August 24, Iraqi Army Scouts captured two leaders of the Mahdi Army during raids in Taji and Baghdad. On August 23, Iraqi Special Operation Forces captured nine "suspected extremist militants" during two raids inside Baghdad. An inquiry to Multinational Forces Iraq confirmed the suspects were Mahdi Army.

Iraqi Army Scouts and Polish forces captured two Shia extremist cell members in Diwaniyah on August 24. One of those captured is "responsible for producing explosively formed penetrators and executing improvised explosive devices attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces in the area."

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