By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 26, 2007 - In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have been proving their effectiveness and expanded capability in operations that are increasingly yielding results, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, speaking to reporters in Baghdad, highlighted several recent operations by Iraqi forces, including the discovery of a large weapons cache, the thwarting of several car bombs, and the prevention of a carjacking and kidnapping involving two busloads of Iraqi citizens.
Violence has increased in the past few days, but that was expected because, historically, the Islam holy month of Ramadan has been more violent than other times, Bergner said.
"In spite of the tragic losses, we are seeing the courage and skill of the Iraqi security forces (to) interdict a number of these attacks and limit the effects that might otherwise have been caused this year," he said.
A significant recent development was that the weapons cache discovered yesterday by 8th Iraqi Army Division soldiers in Diwaniyah included Iranian-made mortars, Bergner said. He displayed a 12-inch, shaped-charge improvised explosive device and an array of five explosively formed penetrators concealed in foam that were found in the cache. Also included in the cache were two EFPs tied together in foam, an array of three EFPs, and 12 81 mm mortar rounds, with fuses.
Bergner noted that Iran has made several public commitments to help the government of Iraq promote security, but has done nothing to fulfill those commitments. Coalition forces recently detained an officer from the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, he said. This officer was a long-time operative with significant responsibility to oversee operations in Iraq and has been involved in networks that provide extremist groups with sophisticated weapons, training and funding, Bergner said.
Also, Iran has recently closed border crossings with Iraq, which has imposed economic hardship on the people of northern Iraq, Bergner said.
"It is difficult to reconcile these actions that undermine security and create economic hardship for the people of northern Iraq after publicly committing to help the government of Iraq," he said. "Nevertheless, we look forward to fulfillment of the public commitments that have been made."
Other Iraqi security force operations Bergner highlighted were:
-- On Sept. 24, Iraqi army soldiers stopped a car bomb before it could reach its target, a traffic checkpoint. One Iraqi soldier was killed and another was wounded.
-- Also on Sept. 24, an Iraqi army patrol in Habaniyah stopped a suicide truck bomb that had crossed a median, causing it to detonate prematurely. The blast was so strong that it caused a dump truck behind the truck to overturn. The dump truck was later discovered to contain more than 6,600 pounds of explosives.
-- Yesterday, Iraqi special operations forces conducted an operation in Rustamiyah to apprehend individuals suspected in the kidnapping and murder of the former commandant of the Iraqi military college there and with the kidnapping of the current commandant, who was subsequently released. The individuals detained allegedly had used security personnel to murder, kidnap and conduct attacks using IEDs and EFPs and had provided military equipment and weapons to criminal elements.
-- The weekend of Sept. 22-23, Iraqi security forces stopped an attempted carjacking and kidnapping of two busloads of Iraqi citizens from Kirkuk. The Iraqi soldiers killed one terrorist and wounded another in freeing the hostages.
-- On Sept. 21, Iraqi army soldiers uncovered a large weapons cache in a village northeast of Tal Afar. The buried cache included mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, weapons and ammunition.
In addition to these tactical operations, Iraqi and coalition forces are partnering on a number of medical and humanitarian missions, including medical assistance operations in Karkh, Baghdad and Yusafiya, Bergner said.
As Ramadan continues, the coalition is continuing its joint venture with the government of Iraq to review cases and release eligible detainees, Bergner said. In Multinational Force West, 75 men were released last week, and since Ramadan began, 583 detainees have been released, he said.
"These releases are all in an effort to foster goodwill and reconciliation during the observance of the holy month of Ramadan," he said, noting that those released have pledged to renounce violence.