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February 11, 2008
US Forces Capture Militia Leader in Iraq
Via Ed Morrissey, we get the good news that a key militia leader has been captured by US forces in Muqtada al-Sadr's stronghold of Sadr City:
U.S. soldiers captured a suspected Shiite militia commander and one other suspect Monday, the latest of several days of raids in Shiite holy cities south of Baghdad. Violence has been on the uptick in Iraq in recent weeks as some Shiite militias seem to be becoming more active - especially those tied to Iran.
The arrests came a day after car bombs and gunmen struck new U.S. allies, police and civilians in northern Iraq, killing as many as 53 people in a spasm of violence that coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Baghdad.
The main suspect detained Monday is believed to be in charge of criminal operations for "special groups" in the Iraqi provinces of Wasit, Babil and Najaf, the U.S. military said in a statement. He was allegedly involved in coordinating weapons shipments and planning attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, it said. It did not characterize the second suspect.
In fact, recent discoveries of weapons caches point to the fact that the Iranians may be once again arming their Shia allies after a pause of several months. Why, is not clear. But the capture of the militia commander will, as Morrissey points out, lead to some valuable intelligence on both the militia and their paymasters and suppliers in Iran.
Also, the two suspects were apparently on the staffs of a national assembly member. This should be interesting to see how the government of Prime Minister Maliki reacts to the arrests.