By David Mays
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 19, 2007 - Coalition forces have killed an al Qaeda leader who orchestrated a massive bombing in an impoverished Baghdad neighborhood, a U.S. military spokesman announced today. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner conducted a televised satellite briefing at Multinational Force Iraq headquarters in Baghdad to announce the killing of Abu Yakub al-Masri.
"He actually directed attacks specifically to incite sectarian violence," Bergner told online journalists and "bloggers" during a conference call from Iraq after his briefing.
Masri, the so-called "emir of Taji," masterminded a November car bombing that killed 180 people and wounded 250 others in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Sadr City, Bergner said.
The Egyptian-born terrorist was killed in an Aug. 31 raid by coalition forces near the city of Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, thanks to information provided, in part, by Iraqi citizens, the general explained. "They are increasingly the source of actionable intelligence and an important enabler," Bergner said.
Much like Sunni sheiks who have railed against al Qaeda insurgents and Shiia leaders who are now urging their followers to do the same, Bergner said local citizens working with Iraqi and coalition forces is key to defeating terrorism in the country.
"We are continuing to focus precise raids against the al Qaeda leadership," Bergner said. "We are also making progress in a variety of other places."
For example, thousands of Iraqi citizens have recently applied to become police officers, the general said. Five hundred signed up just last week in Tarmiya, and 650 others filled out applications during two separate hiring drives near Yusufiyah, southwest of Baghdad, Bergner noted.
In Mosul last week, an Iraqi army unit intercepted a suicide bomber, preventing him from killing targeted citizens, Bergner said.
The general also pointed out other "encouraging trends and signs of progress."
In the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, a massive water treatment plant has just been completed after three years of construction by Iraqi and coalition partners. It will deliver 10,000 cubic meters of water per hour and "significantly improve the availability of clean water to the people of Iraq," the general said.
In Baqubah, which had recently been the scene of heavy fighting, new gas stations are opening to help "better meet the needs of the citizens of Diyala province," the general said.
Bergner said the key to securing peace in Iraq is local solutions to local problems.
"It's important for the central government to support those local citizens and to work with them to achieve their objectives on a local level," Bergner said. "It's actually providing some momentum and some opportunity for the central government to reach out and address the needs of all the communities of Iraq."
(David Mays works for American Forces Information Service's New Media branch.)