By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 9, 2007 - Al Qaeda sanctuaries are continuing to be eliminated or severely restricted as Iraqi and coalition forces maintain the initiative in keeping pressure on terrorists groups, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today. "The combination of the surge, coupled with the increasing capacity of Iraqi security forces and partnerships with the Iraqi people and local tribes and sheiks, have significantly degraded al Qaeda command and control networks, their car bombing networks and their ability to produce propaganda through the media," said Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox during a news conference in Iraq.
Fox said hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists have been killed or captured in the last month. He listed off a few of the top 25 that included the emirs of Mosul and Salah ah Din province, as well as the military leaders in Tarmiyah and Baghdad's northern belts.
"Iraqi security forces are increasingly becoming the first line of defense," he said.
On Sept. 2, Iraqi forces stopped a suicide bomber from blowing up a bridge in Baghdad, Fox said. Forces intervened when a driver of a pick-up truck didn't follow required procedures when going through a checkpoint. They engaged him with small-arms fire and caused the truck to explode before it reached the bridge.
"These alert Iraqi security forces stopped the suicide bomber from reaching his intended target and prevented the destruction of the bridge and prevented untold death and injuries to the Iraqi people," he said.
During operations in Mosul on Sept. 3, soldiers from the 2nd Iraqi Army Division captured a key al Qaeda financier who had also been involved with kidnapping and extortion in the region. They found the equivalent of nearly $200,000, multiple identification cards and correspondence related to kidnapping operations in his possession.
Also on Sept. 3, Fox said, coalition air strikes southwest of Mosul killed the terrorist responsible for planning and conducting the four car-bomb attacks against the Yazidi villages of Khahtaniya and Jazeera in Ninewah province on Aug. 14. Yazidi is a minority religion in Iraq, and adherents live mainly in the Mosul area.
"We will continue to hunt down al Qaeda in Iraq and their operatives who conduct indiscriminate and brutal attacks against the Iraqi people," the admiral said.
Iraq is a violent place beset by many challenges, he said, but it is clearly today less violent than it was last winter.
"There is still a lot of hard work ahead," Fox acknowledged. "We will continue to work closely with the people of Iraq and their government to move toward a safe, stable and secure nation."