'Dragon' Offensives Destroy al Qaeda Outposts in Dora with Iraqi Assistance

By David Mays and Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press ServiceOctober 1, 2007

'Dragon' Offensives Destroy al Qaeda Outposts in Dora with Iraqi Assistance
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, Oct. 1, 2007 - Coalition offensives in southern Baghdad, spurred by Iraqi intelligence, have dramatically reduced al Qaeda-inspired violence, a military commander said.

"We've had about a 60-percent reduction in murders since we arrived and took over in March," Col. Ricky Gibbs told online journalists and "bloggers" during a conference call from Iraq Sept. 28. "That's huge."

Col. Gibbs commands the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team "Dragons" of 1st Infantry Division, part of Multinational Division Baghdad, deployed from Fort Riley, Kan. His Soldiers patrol the Rashid district in southern Baghdad, where al Qaeda insurgents have sought to establish a base, Col. Gibbs explained.

"We've had great success," the colonel said of operations Dragon Hammer, Dragon Fire, and now Dragon Talon II.

The current mission is focused specifically on the southeastern part of the Dora neighborhood, which is particularly ripe for al Qaeda infestation, Col. Gibbs explained. So far, 24 caches filled with weapons and explosives have been discovered, and 102 suspected insurgents have been arrested, including 17 "high value targets" who finance, lead and organize al Qaeda operations, the colonel said.

"We have also been able to cut down dramatically the numbers of IEDs that were in our area," Col. Gibbs said.

Just last night, the colonel elaborated, his Soldiers seized 36 rockets and two mortar systems similar to those that are sometimes fired into Baghdad's heavily fortified International Zone.

"One of the things that is helping us is the people," Col. Gibbs said. "They trust the American Soldier. They seek out the American Soldier and give him tips."

A classic case of citizen assistance happened just today when a coalition patrol was warned of potential danger by Iraqi children waving and shouting from a rooftop, the colonel explained.

"That's one very simple example of the Iraqi people supporting the American operations and giving us intelligence to defeat these terrorists and criminals," Col. Gibbs said.

Another positive development is the addition of "Iraqi security volunteers," the colonel explained.

"These are people who live in the neighborhood who volunteer to serve as security guards on key facilities and infrastructure who at a later date will be allowed to join the Iraqi security forces," Col. Gibbs said.

The colonel said he also has been meeting with Sunni and Shiia sheiks to help bridge sectarian divides and foster reconciliation.

"We talk about the differences and focus on the people of Iraq and what they can do to help bring peace to the people," Col. Gibbs said. "We're seeing movement on both sides to come together and bring peace to the table."

<b>Coalition Kills al Qaeda Leader</b>

In other news from southern Baghdad, a top al Qaeda leader who coordinated efforts of foreign terrorists in Iraq was killed, a senior official in the region announced.

Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a foreigner who brought al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq, was killed Sept. 25 in an air strike on a building south of Baghdad where he was meeting with other al Qaeda operatives, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Multinational Corps Iraq's chief of staff, said in a briefing to reporters in the Pentagon.

The meeting was near Musayyib, in Babil province, about 35 miles south of Baghdad. An Air Force F-16 bombed the building. A video provided by defense officials shows a large explosion and the building leveled. Two other al Qaeda members were killed in the blast, and two were detained, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.

Tunisi was a close associate, and part of the inner circle of advisors to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the overall leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Anderson said. Officials believe he may have been tapped to succeed Masri.

Originally from Tunisia, Tunisi was the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq, responsible for overseeing foreign terrorists' movements into Iraq and partnering them with terrorist cells. More than 80 percent of suicide bombings are carried out by foreign terrorists, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.

Tunisi has been operating in Yusufiyah, southwest of Baghdad, since November 2004 and became emir of the area in 2006. Tunisia's group is believed responsible for the June 2006 kidnappings of two U.S. Soldiers who later were found dead.

Brig. Gen. Anderson said Tunisi's death was the culmination of a series of operations that began Sept. 12 when coalition forces captured a close associate to Tunisi. During the following days, forces ramped up operations and detained several other key associates of Tunisi in separate operations south and west of Baghdad. One was said to have identified Tunisi at the meeting, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.

The two others killed were Abu Abdullah, reported to be the new emir of the southern part of Baghdad's Karkh region, and Sheikh Hussein, an al Qaeda in Iraq facilitator, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.

A handwritten letter found at the site indicated that Tunisi's operations were cut off by coalition forces in the area and that he was trying to get direction from leaders, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.

"We are so desperate for your help," the letter reads.

"This was a dangerous terrorist who is no longer a part of al Qaeda in Iraq," Brig. Gen. Anderson said. "His death deals a significant blow to their operation."

Abu Yakub al-Masri, another inner-circle leader, was killed Aug. 31 near Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. Of Abu Ayyub al-Masri's inner circle of four foreign leaders, only two remain at large, Brig. Gen. Anderson said.