By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2007 - About 15 al Qaeda operatives ended up dead in Adwaniyah, Iraq, on Nov. 12, as Iraqi citizens stood strong in their town's defense, a senior military officer said today. It was 9:30 that morning when the first mortar fire hit checkpoints being manned by a concerned local citizen, or CLC, groups, U.S. Army Col. Terry Ferrell told online journalists and "bloggers" in a conference call. Ferrell commands the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team serving in Multinational Division Center, responsible for oversight in the Adwaniyah and Hawr Rajab areas.
Between 30 and 40 al Qaeda fighters massed against two checkpoints just south of Baghdad, using a combination of small-arms fire and truck-mounted machine guns, Ferrell said. Close communication efforts between Iraqi security forces and the CLCs led to the Iraqi army positioning units at the northern checkpoint immediately after the initial al Qaeda assault.
The day-long battle pulled in coalition and Iraqi forces. All, including the CLCs, took fire from enemy fighters.
"There were approximately 15 al Qaeda operatives dead, ... ending with the concerned citizens still standing strong," Ferrell said. "This was a first true test in their organization."
He touted the victory as a good indication of the effectiveness of the CLC groups, mentioning that the group stationed at this checkpoint had formed only one week earlier.
"It shows the strength and willingness of the people to take back their community," he noted. "The program continues to stand strong in the town of Adwaniyah and continues to build on the progress they've made."
Prior to establishing a CLC group in Adwaniyah, Ferrell oversaw a similar program that was set up in Hawr Rajab only a few months ago. "Hawr Rajab is becoming a model community," he explained. "We are assisting them to create a secure community and bringing life back to the community."
He said the CLCs now include several hundred members, and security and economic development improves daily. Before the troop surge, Ferrell explained, only one U.S. battalion was responsible for these areas, which were considered an al Qaeda sanctuary. Now, in Hawr Rajab, schools are up and running, shops are open and people are out on the streets.
The people of Adwaniyah see this success, he noted, and are on their way to building a similar community. He called the developments a great indication that al Qaeda operatives will continually be denied sanctuary and will be pushed out of town in a "pocket-by-pocket" approach.
(Jamie Findlater works in New Media at American Forces Information Service.)