Iraq forces claim they are closing in on Zarqawi

Saturday, July 24, 2004

BAGHDAD Iraq claims its intelligence services and security forces have achieved significant gains against Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi.

Iraqi officials said the nation's intelligence services have succeeded in tracking the leadership of Al Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group. They said Iraqi intelligence has managed to obtain information to understand the structure of Al Zarqawi's network, its location and recruitment methods.

Western intelligence analysts played down the claims of Iraqi officials regarding the success of Al Zarqawi. The analysts agreed that Al Zarqawi appeared to be seeking to move much of his network out of Iraq, but did not see any immediate let-up in its activities.

Al Zarqawi and other Sunni insurgents have killed about 100 Iraqi security officers and civilians over the last 25 days, Middle East Newsline reported. On Thursday, the U.S. military announced that marines killed 25 Sunni insurgents in Ramada.

"There's no question that Al Zarqawi feels the pressure on him," an Iraqi security source said. "They're still able to carry out attacks. But they can't stand in one place for more than a few days and this will eventually present serious problems."

Officials said Iraqi intelligence has established agents and liasions in every major city and formed a network to quickly receive information on suspicious foreigners and other insurgents. They said that often intelligence can often lead to arrests of insurgents within a 24-hour period.

The pressure has been greatest on Al Zarqawi's leadership, the officials said. They said the leadership has been on the move to avoid capture and can't stay in any one location for more than three days.

As a result, officials said, some of Al Zarqawi's aides have been leaving Iraq for surrounding countries, including Iran and Syria. They said this could lead to either the splintering of the network into regional cells or an exodus of the entire organization.

"We know that Al Zarqawi's people have been leaving Iraq over the last few weeks," the source said. "There could be a dramatic decline if the pressure on the network continues."

"A lot of what we hear from the new Iraqi government is bravado," a Western analyst who deals with Iraq said. "They know that within a year they will be largely on their own and so they are trying to show that the situation is under control."

Earlier, Iraqi and U.S. officials determined that the Tawhid and Jihad organization doubled its size since January 2004. They estimated that the group, flushed with funding and operation success, has about 1,000 insurgents in Iraq.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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