By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, July 7, 2006 – Iraqi forces with coalition aviation support captured a "significant criminal" in East Baghdad yesterday, coalition spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell said today. Speaking to reporters by satellite from Baghdad, Caldwell was able to show video of the Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-led and Iraqi-executed operation. Coalition personnel accompanied the operation, but only in an "overwatch" role, Caldwell said. Overwatch means they observed the operation and could have advised Iraqi leaders if needed, the general explained.
Caldwell said the criminal was picked up with four other men. "He led multiple insurgent cells in Baghdad," the general said. "His main focus is to conduct attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces. These attacks have included using improvised explosive devices and vehicle(-borne) improvised explosive devices. His group has kidnapped, tortured and murdered Iraqi citizens, and he personally killed two Iraqi soldiers "in an attempt to improve his organization's status with his higher leadership," Caldwell said. Iraqi intelligence linked the man to a punishment committee that carries out vigilante judgment on perceived enemies.
"We know that this individual was also involved in the transfer of weapons from Syria into Iraq to, reportedly, facilitate ... his efforts to splinter away from his current organization," the general said. The capture was part of Iraq's Operation Together Forward, Caldwell said. There were no Iraqi or coalition casualties.
Iraqi soldiers operated from 16 up-armored Humvees and two armored trucks. They based the operation on intelligence, Caldwell said. Upon reaching the neighborhood, the security forces took intense small-arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire for 43 minutes, Caldwell said. The Iraqi troops, using night-vision devices, replied to the fire, while continuing their primary mission.
The general said the troops had to blast open the door of one of the target houses. Upon entering, they interrogated the people inside and found the man was in a nearby house. Again, they blasted open the door and captured the man with four other men in the house. Caldwell said it was "a very well-coordinated, well-executed operation. Iraqi security forces, in fact, planned this operation and then executed it themselves last night."
The entire time the assault force was in the objective area, it was taking fire from multiple positions, Caldwell said. "At one point, there was a group of about seven to eight what were clearly insurgents moving towards them, firing, using rocket-propelled grenades," he said. "At that point they did, in fact, call in aerial support; they did use coalition support aircraft to put three 105(mm) rounds into that location. That neutralized that threat."
The total operation took several hours from when the Iraqis began the operation to when they returned back to their starting point. Iraqi forces estimated that between 30 to 40 insurgents may have been wounded or killed in the action.