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Iraq Report: Phantom Thunder Update

5:07 PM, Jul 9, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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With Operation Phantom Thunder, the corps level operation in the Baghdad Belts, now underway, Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to work to secure Baghdad as they take on the Mahdi Army, Iranian backed cells, and al Qaeda's networks nationwide. In Anbar province, combat operations are underway in Thar Thar and Karma and a false suicide attack in Fallujah was reported in the Washington Post. Muqtada al Sadr fled to Iran and operations continue to target his Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed Special Groups.

070707-A-8181B-anbarconf113.jpg"The Promise of the People Conference," Ramadi, July 7.

Anbar

Multinational Forces West and the Iraqi Security Forces are pressing forward on three fronts--Fallujah, Thar Thar, and Karma in eastern Iraq--while senior tribal leaders from Anbar province and beyond met in Ramadi.

In Fallujah, the Marines, Iraqi Army, and police are pushing forward with Operation Alljah. The operation is designed to clear all eleven of Fallujah's precincts and establish local police stations and neighborhood watches in each area.

"This is the operation that will set the conditions for Iraqi Police to control all of Fallujah and allow for the withdraw of Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces," Major Jeffrey Pool, the Public Affairs Director for Multinational Forces West said in an email to The Fourth Rail.

While the Washington Post is reporting a massive suicide attack outside of Fallujah, claiming 23 killed and 27 wounded in an attack on an Iraqi Army recruitment center, Multinational Forces West told The Fourth Rail that this report is false. The Post report is based on a Voice of Iraq article, which claimed 17 killed and 27 wounded.

1st Lt. Shawn Mercer, the deputy Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Forces West, he denied such an attack took place in an email. "We don't have any reports of an attack on a recruiting center (or any static location) and certainly not with that kind of death toll in our AO," said 1st Lt. Mercer. He noted there was an IED attack near Abu Ghraib that killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three on Saturday night, and suspected the reports may have been confused. "I'm not sure how the reporting on this got so confused but the sources were not reliable," he stated. In March 2007, Voice of Iraq falsely reported an attack on U.S. forces outside Rutbah.

In the Thar Thar and Karma regions, the Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit "discovered more than 17,000 kilograms of explosives in a series of weapons cache[s]..." The finds included a homemade explosives factory, which "contained more than 6,000 kilograms of homemade explosives, 8,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, a common [Home Made Explosive] component, and the equipment to mix, manufacture and transport large quantities of the explosives." Chlorine gas, which al Qaeda in Iraq used against Anbari civilians in the spring of 2007, was also found at one of the caches.

In Ramadi, about 250 Iraqi tribal leaders, sheiks and civilians gathered for "The Promise of the People Conference" on July 7. "The attendees included both Shiite and Sunni leaders from across various provinces including Baghdad, Salahuddin, and Karbala," Major Pool noted in an email. "The Alwani Tribe of Ramadi planned the conference to build cohesiveness and strengthen unity for coalition and government support, while denouncing insurgent activities. The invitation of Shiite leaders to the predominantly Sunni Anbar Province capital was an act of reconciliation and focus toward future cooperation." Both the Anbar Awakening and the Iraqi Islamic Party participated in the conference.

Sadr and the Mahdi Army