American Forces Press Service
July 18, 2007 – Officials in Iraq today identified a detainee alleged to be a key leader of a rogue militia element who has been in coalition custody since June 28, and a pair of car bombs killed 14 Iraqis in Baghdad yesterday. Sheikh (Ahmed) Mohammad Hassan Sbahi al-Khafaji, believed to be an important figure in radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi militia, was captured during an operation in Nasiriyah, officials said.
During the operation, Iraqi special operations forces, with coalition forces present as advisors, detained Khafaji without incident and also detained five other suspicious individuals.
Khafaji allegedly is responsible for attacks on coalition forces and bases, and has been implicated in the kidnappings and murders of Iraqi citizens. It is also believed he provides financial support to weapons trafficking networks that supply terrorist groups in the Baghdad area that have received training, arms and funding from Iran's Quds Force.
In other news from Iraq, two car bombs killed a total of 14 Iraqis yesterday, and coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained two others.
A car bomb killed four Iraqis and wounded four others after detonating near the Iranian Embassy complex in the Karkh security district in central Baghdad yesterday. At around 11 a.m., coalition forces reported that a car bomb detonated in a parking lot 200 meters from an entry control point into the International Zone. The vehicles were destroyed in the area; 12 others were damaged.
Iraqi security forces responded to the scene and established a cordon around the blast site, providing additional security and aid to injured Iraqi civilians. Coalition forces provided additional assistance. An Iraqi explosives ordnance disposal team responded to the site to conduct a post-blast analysis.
In another incident, 10 Iraqis were killed and 20 more were wounded yesterday when insurgents detonated a car bomb in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The wounded included four Iraqi soldiers. Following the attack, soldiers rushed to the scene and sealed off the area.
Also yesterday, coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained two suspected terrorists during two coordinated operations targeting an al Qaeda weapons facilitator southwest of Tarmiyah.
During the first precision operation, coalition forces approached a vehicle believed to contain a terrorist weapons facilitator connected to al Qaeda senior leaders. As coalition forces neared the vehicle, three men emerged from the vehicle and engaged them with small-arms fire. Coalition forces, responding in self-defense, returned fire and killed the three armed men.
Nearby, coalition forces conducted a second precision operation targeting associates of high-level al Qaeda leaders and detained two suspected terrorists.
In an operation July 16, Iraq soldiers, with coalition forces advisors, detained two suspected al Qaeda leaders during an intelligence-driven operation in western Baghdad. The operation was conducted simultaneously at three separate locations. At one location, Iraqi forces subdued a suspect who attempted to engage the team with a screwdriver. Thirteen other suspicious individuals who were present during the operation also were detained.
The primary suspect is believed to command three cells under the al Qaeda banner, officials said. He allegedly distributed money, weapons, and equipment among his subordinates. The second suspect is believed to lead at least two of those cells. He allegedly builds car bombs, conducts cells meetings at his home and creates terrorist propaganda videos.
The targeted individuals are suspected of using foreign fighters to facilitate attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces, using direct fire and improvised explosive devices. They also are accused of kidnapping and extorting local Iraqi civilians who disrupt al Qaeda efforts in the area.
In Baqubah yesterday, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces expanded their efforts to secure the city by surrounding an eastern portion of the city known as "Old Baqubah" and beginning a deliberate house-to-house search for al Qaeda operatives. Baqubah is 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)