As al Qaeda in Iraq is targeted in the northern city of Mosul, pressure continues to be applied to the terror network nationwide. US and Iraqi security forces have killed or captured 26 senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq's terror network over the past several weeks, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq said in a briefing in Baghdad on March 5. Many of those killed or captured have come from the northern regions, where al Qaeda is struggling to reestablish its network during a joint US and Iraqi military onslaught.
Eight of those killed were emirs, or leaders responsible for "a geographic or functional area," five were cell leaders, and 13 were facilitators "involved in supporting the network of foreign terrorists, organizing the movement and security of senior leaders of the terrorist cells, or the making and use of improvised explosives and suicide vests," Bergner said.
Bergner identified 11 of those killed or captured by name. The list highlights how al Qaeda's operations have shifted from Anbar and Baghdad provinces to the northern provinces of Diyala, Salahadin and Ninewa. Of those al Qaeda leaders identified, five operated in Mosul, two in Tikrit, one in Sharqat, and one in Baqubah, all in the north. Only two of those identified as killed or captured came from Baghdad.
• Abu Yasir al Saudi: Also known as Jar Allah, Yasir entered Iraq in August 2007 and rose through the ranks to lead al Qaeda operations in southeastern Mosul. He was killed in an airstrike along with Hajji Hamdan in Mosul on Feb. 27. He trained and fought in Afghanistan prior to entering Iraq.
• Hajji Hamdan: He led al Qaeda's anti-aircraft teams in Mosul and the surrounding areas. He was killed in an airstrike along with Abu Yasir al Saudi in Mosul on Feb. 27. Hamdan was also a Saudi Arabian national
• Abu Salim: An al Qaeda cell leader in Mosul who coordinated the movement of foreign terrorists into the Mosul region. He was killed on an unspecified date inside Mosul. Salim was also a Saudi Arabian national.
• Manhal Fadil Salih Ahmad: An al Qaeda cell leader in Yasir Abu Yasir al Saudi's network in southeastern Mosul behind attacks on US and Iraqi forces. Ahmad was captured on an unspecified date.
• Nawaf Latfi Rida Jarrah: The commander of Ansar al Islam's network in Mosul. He is behind attacks on US and Iraqi forces. Jarrah was captured on an unspecified date. Ansar al Islam is also known as Ansar al Sunnah, and has its roots in the Kurdish regions. Abu Abdullah al-Hassan bin Mahmoud, the leader of Ansar al Islam, has close ties to Osama bin Laden. The terror group adheres to al Qaeda's radical Salafi ideology. Military commander Abu Abdullah al Shafi has admitted to carrying out operations with al Qaeda. Ansar al Islam has refused to subordinate itself to al Qaeda in Iraq due to issues with al Qaeda in Iraq's foreign leadership, several US military intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
• Ammar Rashid Barbuti Hassan: The emir of al Qaeda in Tikrit. Hassan also facilitated to movement of foreign terrorists into the region as well as made and transported weapons for attacks against US and Iraqi forces. Hassan was captured on an unspecified date.
• Fannr Mubarak Muhammad Farhan: An al Qaeda foreign terrorist and weapons facilitator, trainer, and jailer in Tikrit. He was captured in Tikrit.
• Najm ‘Abdallah ‘Abbas Mahdi: An al Qaeda cell leader that coordinated and carried out car bomb attacks and assassinations in Baghdad. He also moved weapons and explosives into southern Baghdad province. Mahdi was captured in Baghdad on an unspecified date.
• Jasim ‘Abdallah Salih Shibil: Al Qaeda's leader in Sharqat. He had previously operated in Bayji. Shibil was captured in Sharqat on an unspecified date.
• Rushdi Hamid Shihab Ahmad: Al Qaeda's military leader for the Karkh district in Baghdad behind car bomb attacks in western and southern Baghdad. Ahmad was captured in Baghdad on an unspecified date.
• Abu Hassan: Al Qaeda’s deputy leader for Diyala province who led the regional car bomb network. Hassan was killed in Baqubah on an unspecified date.
Other al Qaeda leaders recently killed or captured in February not included in Bergner's briefing include:
• Arkan Khalaf Khudayyir: A senior intelligence officer of al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Diyala. Khudayyir, who is also known as Karrar, was instrumental in facilitating suicide bombing attacks in the Diyala River Valley and in Baghdad. He was behind several of the female suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad and Diyala. Khudayyir was killed in Khan Bani Sa’ad on February 17.
• An unnamed suicide bombing cell leader and recruiter north of Baghdad. The cell leader was recruiting women to carry out suicide attacks against Iraqis and Coalition forces. The cell leader/recruiter was captured in Ghailibiyah, just north of Khan Bani Saad, in Diyala province.
The success against al Qaeda's leadership network in the North is the result of constant pressure against the terror group combined with the recruitment of the Sunni tribes and former insurgents to provide intelligence and security. The push against al Qaeda in the northern areas began after Baghdad and the surrounding regions, known as the Belts, were cleared during major combat operations during the summer of 2007. Multinational Forces Iraq and the Iraqi security forces first tackled the Za'ab triangle region, the area between Nineveh, Kirkuk (Tamin) and Salahuddin provinces, followed by clearing operations in Diyala, then finally the Ninewa operation, said Brigadier General Tony Thomas, the deputy commander of Multinational Division North in a briefing on March 3.
US and Iraqi forces began focusing on the North in the late summer of 2007. Operation Lightning Hammer II, launched in early September, focused on the Za'ab triangle region. The Concerned Local Citizens - now known as the Sons of Iraq - were recruited to provide local security. This was followed by Operations Iron Hammer and Raging Eagle in November and Operation Iron Reaper in December 2007. In January 2008, Operation Phantom Phoenix was launched to target al Qaeda's networks in the central and northern regions. Iron Harvest and Marne Thunderbolt, two subordinate operations to Phantom Phoenix, were launched in early January. Iron Harvest targeted al Qaeda's networks in Miqdadiyah and wider Diyala province, while Marne Thunderbolt targeted al Qaeda's networks in southern Baghdad province.