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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Special Iraqi Army Forces and Iraqi National Police capture illegal armed group leaders in Balad

Special Iraqi Army Forces and Iraqi National Police detained the Imam of the Al-Mahdi Mosque during operations Jan. 12 in Balad targeting suspected illegal armed group figures involved in kidnapping, murder and other violent crimes against Iraqi civilians.

Iraqi forces, with Coalition forces advisers, conducted the operation to capture illegal armed group leaders who are facilitating or conducting intimidation and violence which are directly responsible for the continuing cycle of sectarian violence in the area. These actions, which foster sectarian mistrust and fear, are largely responsible for preventing Iraqis displaced during previous violence in Balad from returning to their homes and livelihoods.

The Imam was detained on suspicion of leading the group and condoning the killing of men, women and children and other illegal activity through the issuance of fatwas. He allegedly allows use of the mosque as a base of operations for the group and as a place for interrogations, torture and murder.

Iraqi forces also detained a group member reported to run a kidnapping and murder cell used by the group to help maintain its destabilizing, anti-government position within the community.

Iraqi forces entered the mosque during the operation and confiscated numerous assault rifles, pistols, rifle magazines, Iraqi Army uniforms and sets of body armor found inside. Iraqi forces also found film strips showing individuals inside the mosque with various rifles, a machine-gun and rocket propelled grenade launchers.

Two additional persons were detained for further questioning.

Iraqi forces operations continue to combat violent elements whose actions hinder security, spread fear and mistrust and foster continuing violence. This operation demonstrates their ability and resolve to go against all individuals and groups engaged in actions counter to a peaceful and stable Iraq.

No damage to the mosque occurred during the operation. There were no Iraqi civilians, Iraqi forces or Coalition forces casualties.
(Taken from press release #20070113-03 by Multi-National Corps-Iraq - Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory)

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