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Iraq: Tal Afar aftermath, and Diyala

1:39 PM, Mar 29, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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icon.roggio2.gifThe fog around the Tal Afar reprisal killings has cleared some since the Associated Press intimated the Tal Afar police force went on an organized rampage throughout the city following a devastating suicide attack that killed 83 and wounded another 104 civilians. In a conference call with Rear Admiral Mark Fox, the Multinational Forces Iraq Chief of Communication Division, he noted that 14 off duty police were among 18 arrested, and the police were local to the region. This was an action by rogue elements of the local police force, and not an event coordinated by the police command.

Rear Admiral Fox also noted the Iraqi Army responded quickly to stop the violence, and senior officials from the Iraqi government are en route to deal with the situation. RAdm Fox also noted the Iraqi Army prevented another large suicide truck bomber from striking in Tal Afar.

The Associated Press is now reporting that both Shia militiamen and off duty police were responsible for the murders, which have killed upwards of 70 Sunni, possibly women and children. The police were detained but later released, according to the governor of Nineveh province. The incident in Tal Afar highlights how al Qaeda's suicide bombings, particularly large truck bombs (this one contained over 7,000 pounds of explosives) can quickly ignite sectarian violence in the most seemingly calm cities. The situation in Tal Afar bears close watching.

Al Qaeda has conducted a major suicide attack at a Baghdad market, the first in about a week. Over sixty were killed in the dual suicide bombing at an outdoor market in a Shia area. Otherwise, attacks inside Baghdad continue to be low level roadside bombs or car bombs. Two police were killed in a roadside bomb attack, and another two were killed in a drive by shooting.

The majority of the large scale attacks are occurring in the provinces. The suicide bombings in Tal Afar was one such example. Diyala remains a hot spot. Al Qaeda conducted a series of bombings in the city of Khalis which killed over 40 and wounded 80. The targets included "a bank, a mosque, at a checkpoint and near a court."

Thousands of Al Qaeda fighters are said to have fled Baghdad for Diyala, and the Islamic State of Iraq has made Baquba its capital. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to cow the local population and keep the tribes from supporting the government.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting a major clearing operation in Diyala against al Qaeda in Iraq and its Islamic State of Iraq political front. On March 28, 25 al Qaeda were killed and 15 captured during raids in the Diyala River Valley. Eight weapons caches have been discovered and destroyed.

Iraqi and Coalition forces have been busy over the past 48 hours interdicting insurgent and al Qaeda activites nation wide. Operations in Babil province, which is south of Baghdad, netted 38 suspected insurgents, five weapons caches and an IED.

During nationwide operations against al Qaeda's network, Coalition Forces (or Task Force 145 - the hunter-killer teams assigned to disrupting al Qaeda networks) captured 19 suspects during raids in Karma, Haditha, Baghdad and Fallujah on March 28. Another 4 were killed and 15 captured during raids in Mosul, Baghdad, Fallujah and Haditha on March 29.