By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2007 – Local Iraqis were instrumental in helping coalition and Iraqi forces liberate 42 men from al Qaeda custody in Iraq's Diyala province, the coalition commander in the area said. Army Lt. Col. Morris Goins, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, said local Iraqis are getting tired of al Qaeda intimidation and threats and are cooperating more with Iraqi and coalition forces.
The operation, south of Baquba on May 27, liberated 42 men, most of whom worked with the Iraqi government. Al Qaeda kidnapped the men and held them in the area. "The men were handcuffed and some showed signs of torture," Goins said during a telephone interview from Diyala today. Some of the men had been hung from doorways and beaten. All showed the effects of their captivity, he said.
Since the operation, the unit has found more hideouts and caches of weapons. The colonel said he is encouraged that the local population is banding together against the terrorists. He said the local sheikhs are throwing in with the Iraqi government. The local people are establishing neighborhood watch-type organizations to prevent al Qaeda from returning.
Local people are volunteering for the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. "The Iraqis want their country back and are taking steps toward that," Goins said.
He said his unit has worked closely with the 1st Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division in this operation and others and that he is pleased with the growing capacity of the Iraqi army troops. Goins said the army units are farther along in capabilities than the police, but both are developing well.
Al Qaeda remains the main enemy in his area, Goins said. Diyala is a majority Sunni Arab province, with significant pockets of Shiia Arabs and other groups. About 1,000 al Qaeda operatives in the province are trying to foment division among the groups and prevent the Iraqi government from succeeding in the province, he said.
Al Qaeda is not directly challenging coalition forces, Goins said. Rather, the terrorists plant improvised explosive devices and "drop-and-pop" IEDS, which are quickly emplaced, to inflict casualties on coalition and Iraqi forces.
Small numbers of Shiia militiamen are operating in the province, as well, Goins said. His unit found a large number of explosively forced projectile weapons in the province in February. These explosives, which can punch through a tank, come from Iran to Shiia insurgents.
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