By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
March 5, 2008 - As security improves across Iraq, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces are continuing to put pressure on the al Qaeda in Iraq network, specifically its senior leaders, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today. In recent weeks, Iraqi and coalition forces have captured or killed 26 senior al Qaeda in Iraq network leaders, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad. Of the 26, eight were emirs who exercised responsibility for a geographic or functional area, five were cell leaders, and 13 were terrorist facilitators.
The emirs captured included the emir of Sharqat, who was wanted for attacks against Iraqi and coalition security forces and civilians; the emir of Tikrit, who led efforts to import foreign terrorists and to make and move weapons for terror attacks; and the military emir of Karkh, who coordinated and carried out car-bomb attacks in the western and southern areas of Baghdad.
Coalition forces killed Abu Yasir al-Saudi, also known as Jar Allah, who was the al Qaeda emir for southeastern Mosul and directed the terror network there, Bergner said. The coalition also killed Abu Hassam, who was the deputy military emir for Diyala province.
Bergner also highlighted several recent operations in Iraq, in which Iraqi and coalition forces detained numerous suspected terrorists. In an operation in western Ninevah province March 2, three members of the Tal Afar special weapons and tactics team were killed when their vehicle was hit by machine-gun fire as they were approaching a terrorist camp. The rest of the SWAT team responded, killing nine terrorists, wounding five enemy fighters, and detaining eight suspected terrorists who allegedly are responsible for planning and facilitating attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as setting up illegal checkpoints and conducting rocket attacks in Tal Afar.
Bergner attributed much of the recent success to the determination of the Iraqi people and security forces, who continually reject al Qaeda's violence and stand up for peace in their communities. He noted that even in the face of this rejection of violence, al Qaeda's second-in-command published a new message recently promoting violence.
"Despite al Qaeda's calls for violence, the Iraqi people are rejecting them on the very basis that the terrorists seek to legitimize themselves: violence," Bergner said. "We are heartened by the courage of the Iraqi people, who are restoring security to their communities, who are working closely with their security forces and the coalition, and who are standing up to threats and attacks from the extremists, including the perverse call from al Qaeda's foreign leaders."