August 7th, 2007 08:53 EST
Citizens oust terrorists from mosque, help uncover weapons cache
BAGHDAD — Fed up with violent and indiscriminate terror tactics, a group of more than 80 residents of the Adhamiyah district, on the east side of the Iraqi capital, banded together Sunday to oust suspected terrorists from a local mosque.
The uprising led to a string of events over the next 12 hours that ultimately resulted in the arrest of 44 suspected terrorists and the capture of three weapons caches.
The initial takeover of the Abu Hanifa Mosque occurred at about 2 p.m., apparently triggered by news that terrorists had murdered two relatives of a prominent local sheik. As the news spread, angry residents joined the sheik to storm the mosque, long believed to be a sanctuary for terrorists operating in the area, and ousted the suspected terrorists inside from the building.
Iraqi Army troops from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 11th Infantry Division, responded quickly to control the situation and secure the area around the mosque. Residents led them to several individuals among those ousted from the mosque who were suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. Thirteen suspects eventually were detained.
After order was restored, the Iraqi Army received a tip about a weapons cache hidden near the mosque. At about 7 p.m., Iraqi forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque and uncovered a massive illegal weapons cache in an outside courtyard. The cache contained several already-assembled improvised explosive devices, dynamite, mortars, rockets, landmines, bomb-making materials, and various weapons.
Shortly after midnight, acting on information volunteered by Adhamiyah residents, Iraqi and U.S. Army forces from 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, mounted a combined cordon-and-search operation of the Al Assaf Mosque, in the nearby Maghrib neighborhood. Iraqi Soldiers entered and cleared the mosque and who took three suspects into custody.
Immediately afterward, Iraqi and U.S. forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque area to investigate reports of additional weapons caches. Iraqi Soldiers again entered the building to search the mosque compound and the cemetery behind it.
They discovered two more weapons caches, which contained two IEDs, 16 mortars, two hand grenades, a sniper rifle, remote detonation devices, radios and more than a dozen weapons. Twenty-eight suspects were taken into custody.
"I think this was a turning point," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Broadwater, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. "The people of Adhamiyah have made their stand, and they've showed by their actions that terrorists are not going to be able to come into their backyard and engage in violent acts any longer."
(Story compiled from Multi-National Corps-Iraq news releases)