On its first day of operation in Diyala, a US Stryker column came under heavy attack in Diyala Province, in which one US soldier was killed, twelve wounded, and two Strykers were destroyed, one by a roadside bomb, and another by a sophisticated ambush laid by armed militants, the Associated Press reports.
The Stryker is a 17-ton armored vehicle used to reinforce infantry operations.
The US has recently shifted more forces to Diyala, dispatching the Stryker brigade earlier in the week. The US has said that attacks on coalition and Iraqi troops has risen in Diyala province, in part because armed groups have shifted their operations out of Baghdad in the context of the capital’s security plan.
A “security plan” for Diyala Province is also underway, Iraqi sources say. Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic that a "security official" in the Iraqi police said Friday that joint Iraqi-American forces started implementation of a security plan in Diyala Province, in the areas of Ba'quba and other districts which have seen an increase in the rate of armed attacks, while a tribal source in Muqdadiya told the agency that tribesmen will begin operation to purge the district of armed groups.
An anonymous official source in the Iraqi police in the province's Muqdadiya district told Aswat al-Iraq that, “the joint security forces from the Iraqi police and Iraqi army have begun, with direct support of the multinational forces, a widespread operation, beginning with the implementation of wide-scale operations in Diyala.” The source added, “The deployment will happen with the imposition of inspection points, and running a number of joint patrols between the Iraqi forces and the multinational forces, alongside raiding and inspection operations in the areas that have seen security tensions, in Ba'quba and the districts around it.”
“The new plan aims to eliminate the armed groups in Diyala, and we have intelligence that confirms the flight of several of the members of these groups from the capital, Baghdad, to areas of the province of Diyala, and this plan will eliminate them and prevent them from implementing other attacks on the security forces and civilians,” the Muqdadiya official continued. “The plan comes concurrently with the arrival of 700 members from the multinational forces who will intensify their operations in the general area and participate in the spreading of security and the elimination of takfiri groups belonging to al-Qa'ida.”
And a tribal source in Muqdadiya said to Aswat al-Iraq, that the tribes have begun to pursue armed groups that have made transgressions on many of the sons of Muqdadiya,” adding that in the past, the security forces in Muqdadiya, when they clear an area of armed groups, the gunmen flee from that area, only to return to menace the local population again, after the security forces’ withdrawal from the area. Because of this cycle, the lives of the inhabitants “had become meaningless,” the tribal source said.
Diyala is a mixed province of Arab, Kurdish, and Turkoman inhabitants, and one of the most important strongholds of the armed groups that fight against the US and Iraqi forces, especially groups related to al-Qa'ida in Iraq.
Soldiers from the Iraqi Army Fifth Division are expected to join forces from the US Third Battalion in the operations in Diyala Province.