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American troops captured 60 suspect al-Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad today in the first big test of the new security plan for the Iraqi capital. The cell specialized in bomb-making and had planned attacks in the near future, according to CENTCOM:
A statement by the U.S. military said the arrests in Baghdad were made Friday in Arab Jabour, a southern neighborhood of the capital and a stronghold of Sunni insurgents. The 60 detained men are believed associated with a senior Iraqi al-Qaida leader in a cell that "specializes in bomb making," the statement said.
"The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks," it said. "Multiple forms of credible intelligence led the assault force to the location, later determined to be a funeral gathering, where the suspects were detained."
Women and children at the funeral were separated from the men and the arrests were made without incident, the statement said without giving any details.
It's good news, and sorely needed. The rise in violence in the capital and its environs had created an intolerable sectarian tension that would result in an all-out civil war, if not effectively addressed. The US and the Maliki government finally recognized this and implemented a new force-heavy plan to disarm and capture renegade militias and assorted terrorists, especially the remnants of the Zarqawi network.
Will it be enough? Hopefully, yes. The US cannot allow Iraq to descend into Somali-style street fighting, turning the center of the Middle East into a failed state ripe for terrorist control. The danger of that comes from a lack of aggressive confrontation of the Moqtada al-Sadrs of the region, who have continually tested American resolve since the early days of liberation. When we stopped responding to Sadr's provocations and those of other sectarian gang lords, they grew increasingly bold. The proper response, an escalation of troop strength and more liberal rules of engagement, did not have the political support necessary here in the US -- and the Bush administration's insistence on showing drawdowns initially kept them from pursuing it.
Now with the Iraqis taking control of the quieter provinces, the departing troops can get deployed into Baghdad to quell the violence there. It had better work, or the Iraqi government will find itself hard-pressed to remain in business.Sphere It View blog reactions
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