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Someone important?

Posted by Richard on March 22, 2006

Am I the only person whose eyebrows shot up upon hearing about this assault on a prison in an eastern Iraqi village? It has to be one of the largest forces to mount an attack in the past year, maybe longer:

About 100 masked gunmen stormed a prison near the Iranian border Tuesday, cutting phone wires, freeing all the inmates and leaving behind a scene of devastation and carnage — 20 dead policemen, burned-out cars and a smoldering jailhouse.

At least 10 attackers were killed in the dawn assault on the Muqdadiyah lockup on the eastern fringe of the Sunni Triangle, police said. The raid showed the mostly Sunni militants can still assemble a large force, capable of operating in the region virtually at will — even though U.S. and Iraqi military officials said last year that the area was no longer an insurgent stronghold.

So — after I noted with derision the AP’s use of the term "Sunni militants" — the first thought that crossed my mind was "Why? What was their goal?" The Islamofascist insurgents cannot easily mount operations of this scale and sophistication, or they’d be doing it regularly.

This was a special effort. It was carefully planned to ensure that communications were disrupted and that there were no U.S. or Iraqi Army patrols nearby who might interfere. Did the insurgents just randomly choose this small prison in this out-of-the-way village as a place to flex their military muscle? Probably not:

In all, 33 prisoners were freed, including 18 insurgents who were detained Sunday during raids by security forces in the nearby villages of Sansal and Arab, police said. It was the capture of those insurgents that apparently prompted Tuesday’s attack. The 15 other inmates were a mix of suspected insurgents and common criminals.

I’m guessing the raid wasn’t just to free a rag-tag group of imprisoned insurgents. This was too much risk, effort, planning, and personnel just to free some dime-a-dozen streetfighters with AK47s. I think the Iraqis had someone important in that prison, but were unaware of his identity.

I hope (but doubt) that there are good records — mug shots, fingerprints, identity papers, etc. — and that some of our experts are looking into this.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, basil’s blog, Argghhh!, and Jo’s Cafe.

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