Efforts Against Extremists Continue in Baghdad
By Master Sgt. Dave Larsen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Apr. 24, 2007 Efforts by Iraqi security forces and the coalition to reduce the violence in Baghdad continue as Operation Law and Order enters its ninth week.
"Progress is measured neighborhood by neighborhood in an attempt to rid the capital city of extremists who are intent on terrorizing the population and undermining the elected government here," said Army Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, the deputy commanding general for maneuver with Multinational Division Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division.
He said joint security stations manned by coalition and Iraqi forces continue to stand up throughout the city and improve the overall security situation by maintaining a permanent presence in troubled neighborhoods.
"Threatened by the success of joint security stations across Baghdad, al Qaeda in Iraq continues to attack them with a combination of mortars, small-arms fire and car bombs," Campbell said.
On April 16, at a security station along the main highway out of northern Baghdad, soldiers on guard noticed a dump truck advancing erratically toward the compound. When they engaged the vehicle, the driver attempted to evade and tipped the truck over, spilling its contents and failing to detonate.
Checkpoints also have been successful and are working to prevent additional civilian deaths, Campbell said. He pointed out that Iraqi national police running a checkpoint outside of Sadr City on April 21, stopped a vehicle for inspection and prevented it from detonating inside Sadr City.
Another initiative to improve security is the placement of temporary concrete barriers around Baghdad neighborhoods that have experienced high levels of violence, Campbell said.
"The barriers are not meant to keep people out or shut people in," Campbell explained. "What they allow Iraqi and coalition forces to do is to closely monitor the traffic in and out of the area though and help ensure the safety of the residents.”
Clearing operations and cordon-and-search operations continue throughout the multinational Division Baghdad area of operations. Two recent security operations -- one on Baghdad's west side and the other in Diwaniyah, Iraq, a city south of the Iraqi capital -- have been very successful.
Operation Arrowhead Strike 9 began April 2 in the Mansour district, Campbell said. Coalition and Iraqi forces detained 49 suspects and found 23 caches, demonstrating to the Iraqi people the commitment to secure the city by targeting insurgents, he said.
Operation Black Eagle, which continues in Diwaniyah, began April 6 with the intention to disrupt illegally armed militia activity in that city. Campbell said more than 100 suspects have been detained there, 10 weapons caches have been uncovered and 11 explosively formed projectiles were found in two separate caches.
Successes also are occurring regularly inside Baghdad, as Iraqi security forces and their coalition partners aim to disrupt insurgent networks through precision intelligence-driven targeting. Some of that intelligence is coming from the local populace.
In one such instance, Shiia militia elements loyal to the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi leader known as Abu Dura launched multiple rockets into Baghdad’s heavily fortified International Zone on April 21, Campbell explained, as a response to the recent detention of several key leaders in this criminal group.
"In a sign that average Iraqis increasingly trust their security forces, a resident tipped off the national police to a second rocket launch site," he said. "The national police responded and disrupted the planned attack. Ten rockets were recovered before they could be fired. The police disabled the firing mechanism and removed the rockets for exploitation."
To date, more than 200,000 patrols have been conducted in support of Operation Law and Order. More than 300 caches have been uncovered and more than 800 improvised explosive devices have been found. The Iraqi army, police and national police continue to lead the security effort in support of the operation, Campbell said.
The number of attacks against the civilian population of Baghdad has declined over the last six months, Campbell said. In November 2006, 41 percent of all attacks reported in the city were directed against civilians, he noted. During the month of April, 20 percent of attacks targeted the civilian population.
Campbell said that while attacks have continued to decline over the first nine weeks of the new security plan, some attacks have been very lethal in nature, noting the four car bomb detonations within the Multinational Division Baghdad footprint April 18.
"Al Qaeda in Iraq indiscriminately targets civilians across Baghdad, intent only on causing chaos to undermine the government of Iraq and dishearten the Iraqi people," Campbell said.
Shiia militia members also have brought their own brand of lethality to Iraq, in the form of explosively formed projectiles. Since Jan. 1, Campbell said, 54 EFPs have detonated within his division's area of operation, killing 19 servicemembers and wounding 84 more.
Despite the bombings, the level of sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital also has decreased, Campbell said. There has been a sharp decline in the number of murders in Baghdad security districts.
"The April daily rate for murder victims is the lowest in the past six months," Campbell said.
He said there has been a 27 percent reduction in murders compared to last month and a 65 percent decline compared to November 2006.
"The bottom line is that we are in a very tough fight with our Iraqi security force brothers and the government of Iraq," Campbell said. "We remain committed to them and the Iraqi people."
(Master Sgt. Dave Larsen is assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)