By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2007 – Efforts to oust al Qaeda and other insurgents from Iraq and to revitalize the country’s worn infrastructure continue to make progress, a senior U.S. military officer said in Baghdad today.
“We continue to work with the Iraqi security forces to maintain pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq by targeting their leadership, their networks and their sanctuaries,” Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.
For example, coalition and Iraqi security forces killed or captured 29 senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders during anti-insurgent operations during the last month alone, Bergner reported.
He cited the Sept. 11 death of an al Qaeda chieftain known as Muthanna as the result of anti-insurgent operations in northwestern Iraq. The deceased al Qaeda operative was a key coordinator of foreign-terrorist movements into Iraq from Syria, the general explained.
Hundreds of documents and computer equipment seized by coalition troops revealed the composition and extent of Muthanna’s terrorist network, Bergner added. Captured lists of foreign terrorists en route or already in Iraq show them to have come from Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Oman, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.
Despite foreign-terrorist activity in Iraq, progress continues to be made against the insurgents, Bergner said. He attributed this success to three factors:
— Iraqi and coalition forces are targeting foreign-terrorist networks and leaders;
— Iraq’s security forces and citizens are demonstrating courage and vigilance to eject terrorists from their country; and
— The Iraqi government is heavily engaged with regional neighbors in seeking cooperation to cease cross-border terrorist traffic into Iraq.
Coalition troops also captured a terrorist affiliated with the Iranian Quds Force paramilitary organization, Bergner pointed out. The Iranian was posing as a businessman and is suspected of facilitating the movement of terrorists and high-potency munitions into Iraq, the general explained.
Although much progress is being made across Iraq, it remains a dangerous country due to insurgent-generated violence, Bergner said.
He extended coalition support and best wishes to Polish Ambassador to Iraq Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, who was injured today in Baghdad when his convey was struck by insurgent-emplaced roadside mines. About 1,000 Polish troops are in Iraq. Bergner condemned the attack against the diplomat and praised Poland for being “a stalwart and steadfast” ally. Coalition forces are providing medical assistance to the injured ambassador, he said.
The general also castigated insurgents for three separate Sept. 29 attacks against Iraqi religious leaders in Mosul, in northern Iraq. “We join the people of Mosul in condemning this barbaric violence against respected religious leaders during the holy month of Ramadan,” Bergner said, adding that U.S. authorities will assist Iraqi officials in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Iraq’s citizens are angry and frustrated with insurgent-generated violence in their country, Bergner said. As a result of their hatred of the terrorists, Iraqi civilians are providing more and more information about insurgent movements and operations to Iraqi and coalition forces, he noted.
In addition to combating terrorists, U.S. and Iraqi forces are providing health care to local citizens, Bergner pointed out. Other ongoing joint U.S.-Iraqi programs are contributing to resuscitating Iraq’s financial health by financing the startup of new businesses and the creation of jobs, he added.