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Iraq preparing knockout blow against Al Qaida

Friday, July 25, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

BAGHDAD Iraq has nearly completed preparations for a major operation against Al Qaida.

The Iraq Army and security forces have been amassing troops for an assault against Al Qaida in August. Officials said at least 30,000 soldiers would be deployed in the operation against Al Qaida in the Diyala province on Aug. 1.

"This will be an operation led and conducted by the Iraq Army with the police," the official said. "The U.S. military will provide intelligence and air support."

"This will be an operation meant to decimate the Al Qaida leadership in Diyala," an official said. "If successful, this will have a devastating effect on the Al Qaida presence throughout the country." Officials said the U.S. and Iraqi militaries have determined that the Al Qaida leadership, including network commander Aby Ayoub Al Jayousi, was based in Diyala. They said Al Jayousi and his leading aides have been tracked to an unidentified village in the province.

On July 13, Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf announced preparations for the operation against Al Qaida. At the time, Khalaf did not say when the assault would begin.

Officials said Diyala became the most dangerous province in Iraq in 2008. They said much of the Al Qaida leadership relocated from Anbar, where Sunni tribes joined the U.S.-led coalition.

In July, three leading Al Qaida-aligned operatives surrendered to Iraqi and U.S. forces, including one linked to a Syrian financier. The Al Qaida commander in Rutbah, near the Jordanian border, was also reported to have surrendered.

"The [Rutbah] suspect is known to facilitate foreign fighters, weapons and narcotics," the U.S. military said. "He is said to be well-connected to AQI [Al Qaida in Iraq]networks in various regions and finances criminal groups coming into Iraq. He is also associated with another AQI emir in the area reportedly responsible for executing members of the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, smuggling, hijacking and carjacking."

Al Qaida was said to have been receiving aid and safe haven from neighboring Iran and Syria. Officials said the flow of Al Qaida volunteers from Syria has been reduced from 100 to 20 per month.

Iraq and the U.S. military has been operating against Al Qaida north of Baghdad. The U.S.-led coalition has captured two fugitives and detained two additional suspects in raids that targeted Al Qaida's financial infrastructure around Baghdad.

In operations on July 22 and 23, coalition troops detained an alleged Al Qaida financier near Samarra, 110 kilometers north of Baghdad. Another detainee, arrested in Baghdad, was linked to the Al Qaida leadership in Iraq and other countries.

"By targeting these networks, Iraqi and Coalition forces are continuing to chip away at AQI's ability to conduct acts of indiscriminate violence or to impose an extremist ideology upon the people of Iraq," Cmdr. Scott Rye, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, said.

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