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Arab Jabour: No Al-Qaeda 'Safe Haven'

 

With more Multinational Force successes in Iraq than you can shake a Ka-Bar at, al-Qaeda permanently losing its strategic stronghold just south of Baghdad helps to show how far our Freedoms' Defenders are succeeding.


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l-Qaeda's defeats keep piling up faster than the bodies of its duly departed senior leaders and operational lieutenants. Here are only a few examples:

14 July 2007Al-Qaeda cell leader Abu Jurah killed

BAGHDAD — The top target for al Qaeda in Iraq south of Baghdad was killed July 14 in Arab Jabour by precision-guided munitions, the Excalibur.

Shortly after 12 p.m., 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, received a call that Abu Jurah and 14 anti-Iraqi forces were meeting at a house in Arab Jabour.

Abu Jurah was an AQI cell leader and was responsible for improvised explosive devices, vehicle-borne IED and indirect fire attacks on Coalition Forces in Arab Jabour.

At approximately 1:12 p.m., the house was positively identified allowing 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment to fire two Excalibur rounds destroying the meeting house.

An unmanned aerial vehicle observed persons leaving the house, loading injured individuals into a sedan and fleeing the scene.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter engaged the sedan destroying it.

Three people were observed running from the meeting house to a nearby house.

A U.S. Air Force F16 Fighting Falcon dropped two 500-pound GPS-guided bombs on the second house.



08 July 2007Residents helping to give al-Qaeda the boot

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MURRAY, Iraq — A group of about 20 soldiers moves quietly under a starry sky toward a house about 500 meters from this small outpost less than 10 miles southeast of Baghdad.

As they file up the road, an imam begins a solemn song over a loudspeaker somewhere nearby, calling the faithful to the evening's final prayers.

The soldiers arrive at their destination in less than 10 minutes. Once inside, they separate three men from the women and children. They move throughout the house, looking for weapons and contraband.

The youngest of the men appears to be in his mid-20s. He runs a fruit stand just up the road from Murray and has been under suspicion for some time. He's pulled outside for a short interrogation. His hands are bound with plastic cuffs, and he is put under guard. The two older men are photographed and their fingerprints scanned. The information will be logged later into a nationwide database that U.S. forces in Iraq are compiling of known and suspected insurgents.

A soldier brings out two small white flags that he found atop the roof. Capt. Eric Melloh, 30, of Huntsville, Texas, is certain they've got their man.

"We think this guy is a signaler," says Melloh, commander of Company A, 1-30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division. "We found these white flags. We think he's been using these to signal for mortar, as the insurgents try to adjust fire on the FOB. We'll take him in. We've got multiple sources corroborating his involvement."

Their suspicions about the fruit seller appear to have been right. Although two mortar rounds were fired at Murray the next day, both fell short by about 150 meters. In previous attacks, mortars had landed inside the compound, wounding at least one soldier.

The two-hour raid last week is just a small part of a massive sweep operation that U.S. forces with Task Force Marne, composed largely of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, launched June 15 in an effort to stop the flow of insurgents, weapons and bomb-making materials into the Iraqi capital.

"Our primary task is to block the accelerance of violence into Baghdad," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd Infantry Division and Task Force Marne.

The massive sweep was launched just two days before a similar operation in Iraq's Diyala province, northeast of the capital. Called Marne Torch, the operation is focused on a district called Arab Jabour, which begins just south of Baghdad and runs southeast along the Tigris River.

The region, which stretches 12 miles from the Tigris River in the east to the town of Mahmudiyah in the west and 35 miles south from Baghdad, has seen no sustained U.S. presence for much of the last two years. Iraqi army and police forces in the region have been nonexistent, said Col. James Adams, deputy commander of the 3rd ID's 2nd Brigade.

The region, which is also part of Iraq's notorious Triangle of Death, has become a virtual safe haven for al-Qaida and other insurgent groups. Heavily forested with date palm groves and other vegetation along the Tigris and dotted throughout with small farms and miles of cropland, the region has offered a perfect sanctuary from which to launch attacks into Baghdad.

Lynch said U.S. forces believe there are an estimated 700 insurgents active in the region. The extent of support they have from the local population is unclear. The region is about 99 percent Sunni Muslim, with a single dominant tribe, the al Jabouri.

Adams said that U.S. forces are moving slowly through the region, searching every dwelling, pushing the insurgents farther south as they go.

"It's slow and deliberate," he said. "We're in no hurry at this point."

So far, there has been very little direct enemy contact. But U.S. troops have encountered numerous roadside bombs, booby traps, homemade explosives and a number of small weapons caches.

"We've found no large stockpiles," said Adams, 44, of Middleton, Tenn. "But we've found evidence of where they used to be."

Despite the relative absence of direct contact, Lynch said U.S. forces have killed at least 50 enemy fighters, detained 200 suspected ones and have discovered 50 weapons caches since the operation began. U.S. forces have also "taken out" three of 15 "high-value" insurgent leaders who had been targeted before the operation began, he said.

Initial estimates projected that U.S. forces would suffer one soldier killed and an additional 10 wounded every day for the duration of the sweep, but so far U.S. casualties have been much lower. U.S. troops have suffered six soldiers killed and a little more than 30 wounded since Marne Torch began.

Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1-30th Infantry, said his guidance is to clear every residence in his area of operations and to compile information on every single person they encounter.

"The key point is that this is a very slow and methodical clearing," said Adgie, 40, of National Park, N.J. "We want to find every weapons cache, every [roadside bomb], every safe house that's out there."

Adgie estimates that there are 150 insurgents active in his region. He describes them as local thugs — "Bowery Boys, who've transitioned themselves into al-Qaida."

Adgie said that U.S. forces also want to send a message that they are in Arab Jabour to stay. He said residents were reluctant to cooperate with his troops at first, but are now beginning to provide information on insurgents' activities.

"They want al-Qaida gone as much as we do," Adgie said. "I've spoken to one person who's lost 35 members of his family to al-Qaida."

He said once U.S. forces convince the locals that they are in the region to stay, the next step will be to try to win their trust and confidence.



04 July 2007Operation Guardian Torch leaves al-Qaeda nowhere to hide

PATROL BASE MURRAY, Iraq — Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, in conjunction with soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 6th Division, have been hard at work in Arab Jabour, steadily clearing the area of al Qaeda and other insurgent forces.

Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, from Fort Stewart, Ga., said Operation Guardian Torch succeeded in denying safety and freedom of movement to insurgents in the region.

Adgie said since Guardian Torch began, 400 buildings have been cleared, 250 people have been added to the 'wanted list', and more than 30 people have been detained.

"We are about 75 percent complete. We have a few more weeks ahead of us and the outlook is very positive," said Adgie, a native of National Park, N.J.

"With our work the Iraqi army forces here and the local leaders helping us I think Arab Jabour will be a great place to live."

Adgie said the most important accomplishment thus far is that his Soldiers and the IA soldiers here have started building a level of trust and confidence with the Iraqi people.

Though the contingent of Iraqi soldiers is small, they have been able to make a good impression on the Soldiers of Co. B, 1-30th Inf.

"They basically put an Iraqi face on every mission that we do and it shows the people that the Iraqi army cares about the government as much as we do," said 2nd Lt.James T. Reynolds, 3rd platoon leader for Co. B.

Reynolds said the IA soldiers working with him are well-trained and help them accomplish the mission.

Reynolds, a native of Gainesville Fl., said the mission is very important because it lets the residents know that they're not going to just sit back and let the terrorists take control of their country, city, or town.

In addition to providing extra boots on ground for Co. B, the Iraqi soldiers also contribute in other ways.

Pfc. Kyle Zane Rowin, an infantryman with 3rd platoon, said that they are able to break down cultural barriers that exist between U.S. Soldiers and residents of Arab Jabour.

"It's great; it goes hand in hand. They teach you about their culture and you teach them about yours," said Rowin, a native of Odessa, Texas. "You also can help them better their future and protect their country as well as their families."

One of the ways to bring normalcy to the region is to empower local residents. Adgie said that a weapons reward program has been established so residents can receive payments of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of individuals on the wanted list and weapons caches left behind by Al Qaeda.

Adgie said that his forces will continue to provide security for the region as long as necessary to prevent terrorists from once again calling this region a safe haven.

"I think that we still have some hard work to do the rest of the summer, but we are well on our way to the return of normalcy here on the western banks of the Tigris."



05 March 2007Troops further deplete al-Qaeda's ranks and liberate its hostages

ARAB JABOUR - A coalition assessment following an air strike in Arab Jabour on Saturday led to the rescue of four Iraqi citizens and the uncovering of a terrorist weapons cache.

Four Iraqi citizens were liberated from a building near the site of the air strike, officials said. One of the hostages told military officials the terrorists holding them fled immediately after the air strike.

All four hostages were treated at the scene for various injuries. One of the hostages said he had been held captive for 50 days.

At the site of the air strike, ground forces also found remnants of an anti-aircraft heavy machine gun known as a DShK, as well as rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers. A DShK tripod was found dug into the ground along the Tigris River, along with spent ammunition cartridges.

Coalition forces called in the air strike after they began receiving small-arms fire from several armed men across the Tigris River and were unable to safely subdue enemy fire. Two precision-guided bombs destroyed a small structure and killed seven terrorists hiding inside.

A large secondary explosion was noted after the initial bombs were dropped on the target, officials said, indicating the presence of explosive material within the structure.



A year ago this area was "a stronghold of Sunni insurgents" in which "a senior Iraqi al-Qaida leader in a cell that 'specializes in bomb making'" had been operating. (Old War Dogs)

Now it represents yet another major defeat for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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