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Troops Capture ‘Special Groups’ Leader, Release Detainees

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 – Coalition forces captured a suspected “special groups” leader during operations yesterday in the northern Baghdad area, military officials reported.

The targeted individual was the special groups criminal element leader for Diyala province and oversaw logistics and operations in the area. He reportedly was responsible for storing weapons and procuring lethal aid, including explosively formed penetrators, to support attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.

The man reportedly also is an associate of several other senior-level special groups members from Diyala to Baghdad who were involved in attacks on coalition forces.

In other Iraq news, coalition forces held a release ceremony for 100 detainees yesterday at Camp Cropper in a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation during the holiday of Eid al Adha.

"On this joyful occasion, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you back to the new, peaceful Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, commander of Multinational Force Iraq detainee operations, said in Arabic upon releasing the detainees. "I hope and believe that you will be the role models for the generations to come and contributors to Iraq's glory and prosperity."

The ceremony honored the joint effort by the government of Iraq and coalition forces to increase the average number of detainee releases per month. Individuals are released only after they are deemed to no longer be an imperative threat to the security of Iraq.

The majority of the detainees were released through a review board process, where they had the opportunity to address their cases personally. They also made a pledge to an Iraqi judge, swearing to maintain peace and good conduct.

"We pledge to Allah, the almighty, to be faithful servants in safeguarding and building Iraq," said one released detainee on behalf of the group. "And we ask of him to fill our hearts with love and compassion to the Iraqi people and reject all aspects of violence and hatred."

While in detention, the detainees had the opportunity to volunteer for a number of programs, including basic education courses, religious discussions, vocational training, and work programs designed to help them reintegrate and function as productive members of the community.

All 100 detainees were released yesterday. About 850 detainees have been released so far during the Hajj and Eid al Adha holiday season.

(From Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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