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Coalition Forces Detain 6 in Northern Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2008 – Coalition forces detained six suspects today during operations targeting al Qaeda networks in northern Iraq, officials reported.

During an operation in Mosul, coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be involved in the al Qaeda network operating in northwestern Iraq. The wanted individual reportedly is associated with a senior leader involved in foreign-terrorist facilitation and connected to a group of terrorists responsible for roadside-bomb attacks. Three other suspected terrorists were detained during the operation.

Coalition forces detained another two suspected terrorists during an operation in Hawija targeting an al Qaeda in Iraq senior leader believed to be operating in the area.

“Iraqi and coalition forces are degrading al Qaeda networks across Iraq,” said Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. “As these terrorists attempt to move their operations to new areas, we will find them, drive them out of their hiding places and bring them to justice.”

Also today, Multinational Division North soldiers began Operation Iron Harvest to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq and extremist elements from the region. The operation, which looks to expand on the successes of Operation Iron Reaper, also focuses on disrupting funding sources and car-bomb networks and denying enemy safe havens in northern Iraq.

“We are pressuring al Qaeda wherever they go,” said Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of coalition forces in the north. “Working together, Iraqi and coalition forces will rid the north of extremist violence and will pave the way for a secure and safe northern Iraq.”

Operation Iron Harvest is a part of Operation Phantom Phoenix, an overarching operation to defeat extremism throughout Iraq.

Iron Harvest operations began with the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryker Brigade and 5th Iraqi Army Division clearing Diyala province of enemy fighters to end insurgent attacks. Operations now are concentrated in Muqdadiyah, officials said.

In other Iraq news, Iraqi special operations forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, detained a known extremist cell leader and three additional suspected extremists Jan. 7 in the Zafaraniyah and Diyala areas of Baghdad.

The known extremist is said to lead a cell believed to be behind numerous roadside-bomb and indirect-fire attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as a wide range of criminal activities including kidnapping and murder, officials said. The extremists also are reported to have threatened government and political figures.

On Jan. 6, U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets dropped two 500-pound bombs, destroying an al Qaeda in Iraq safe house used to make and store improvised explosive devices near Busayefi.

After the structure was destroyed, Multinational Division Center soldiers conducting a site survey found IED-making materials. The remnants of the IED-making materials found in the rubble included a 122 mm projectile, a 120 mm mortar round, three 57 mm projectile rounds primed with detonation cord, 50 large-caliber machine-gun rounds, three spools of copper wire, two crush wire strips, 30 meters of command wire, three bundles of detonation cord and a video camera.

Elsewhere, coalition force events in support of Operation Marne Thunderbolt continued to reduce the ability of al Qaeda in Iraq operating in areas south of Baghdad on Jan. 5 and 6.

On the morning of Jan. 6, a structure rigged with explosives was reported to soldiers from 3rd Infantry Division’s 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, currently attached to the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. A U.S. Air Force F-16 air strike destroyed the structure with a 500-pound GBU-38 bomb.

Later the same day, an air weapons team from 3rd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade saw a group of haystacks with an opening leading to an underground tunnel used by extremists. The helicopter crews destroyed the tunnel, making the tunnel system inoperable.

During operations Jan. 5, coalition forces and concerned local citizens found multiple weapons caches and IEDs.

In other developments, a terrorist killed during an operation in Mosul on Dec. 25 has been positively identified as Haydar al-Afri. Also known as Imad Abd al-Karim, he was a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader for the western region of Mosul, and a close associate of several terrorist senior leaders in northern Iraq. Officials said he was involved in facilitating resources and planning attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.

“This was a dangerous terrorist who is no longer part of the al Qaeda in Iraq network,” Danielson said. “We will continue to relentlessly pursue terrorist leaders who try to deny the Iraqi people a future of their choice.”

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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