Security Forces, Citizens Decrease Violence in Iraq
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 28, 2007 - Coalition and Iraqi security forces continue to make progress against al Qaeda and other criminal elements, thanks in large part to the efforts of concerned citizens throughout the country, a senior military official in Baghdad said during a briefing today. In his first briefing since taking over as chief of Multinational Force Iraq's communications division, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith said the recent detention of several key leaders in al Qaeda propaganda cells has proven that coalition forces are making an impact against al Qaeda in Iraq.
Smith said four senior media cell members have been detained in the last month, including the media emir of Mosul, the former head of Mosul's media cell who had established the al Qaeda communications hub in Baghdad, a foreign terrorist from Saudi Arabia who is proficient in video editing and special effects, and a computer graphics specialist.
"Since the surge began, we've uncovered eight separate al Qaeda media offices and cells, have captured or killed 24 al Qaeda propaganda cell members and have discovered 23 terabytes of information," Smith said.
The admiral said forces have learned a great deal from the detainees. "(They) have indicated that al Qaeda propaganda efforts have been degraded in recent months," he said.
He quoted one of the detainees as saying, "There is almost nothing left of (al Qaeda in Iraq)."
Smith said officials believe coalition efforts have reduced al Qaeda's ability to spread propaganda by as much as 80 percent.
"Progress made against al Qaeda and other criminal elements has led to decreased attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces and Iraqi citizens," he said. "Attack levels are continuing a downward trend that began in June."
Smith said the number of weekly attacks is at its lowest level since February 2006. He added that the number of improvised-explosive-device attacks is down more than 60 percent in the past four months since the beginning of Operation Phantom Thunder.
He said the number of casualties has decreased as the number of attacks continues to fall. "In September, less than one third as many citizens died from enemy initiated incidents as compared to last December," he said. "October is on track to continue the impressive decline."
Smith said much of the progress can be attributed to Iraqi citizens who are volunteering to actively participate in their own neighborhood's security.
"What began as the 'Anbar Awakening' has now evolved into the formation of concerned local citizens groups present in almost every major neighborhood in Baghdad province."
More than 67,000 Iraqis have signed up to assist coalition forces and the government of Iraq in securing neighborhoods. Smith said more than 17,000 who have volunteered to permanently augment security forces to operate with brigade and local officials.
Smith cited the efforts of one such group in Muqdadiya who located a suicide bomber and entered his home Oct. 26 in an effort to quell his efforts to hurt innocent citizens. Upon his discovery, the individual detonated his bomb, causing the building to collapse, injuring himself and one of the concerned local citizens.
"This prevented the loss of innocent civilian lives," Smith said. "We commend such efforts."
These efforts aren't only on the part of organized groups, Smith said. Individuals are stepping up as well. Smith described how one Iraqi citizen led coalition forces to the largest weapons cache to be discovered in Iraq on Oct. 23. The cache contained 120 fully-assembled explosively formed penetrators, 600 pounds of explosives, 100 mortar rounds, 150 copper discs and 30 107 mm rockets.
Also known as explosively formed projectiles, EFPs are armor-piercing shaped charges that officials believe are making their way into Iraq from neighboring Iran for use against coalition forces.
Smith said that across Iraq, religious leaders and citizens alike are calling on fellow Iraqis to condemn violence and to unite in their efforts to rebuild the war-torn country.
"All want to see their country free of the violence brought upon them by extremists and criminals," Smith said.