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Operation Ivy Needle

August 23, 2003 - ?

US forces launched Operation Ivy Needle with a 26 August raid aimed at bringing down a gang of organized criminals suspected of attacking coalition forces in the Iraqi town of Khalis, some 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, AP reported. US Colonel David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, said that the raid resulted in the capture of 24 suspected gang members. The gang's alleged leader, Latif Hamid al-Kubayshat -- identified by U.S. forces as "Latif" -- remains at large. The gang's "primary focus is probably criminal activity, but they have attacked coalition forces through direct and indirect means ... As long as [al-Kubayshat] is in place, we will not be able to establish the conditions for the Iraqi police to establish law and order in the area."

Al-Kubayshat's gang reportedly claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion outside the Baquba police station on 10 August that killed one US soldier. Al-Kubayshat is also suspected of burning down the Baquba courthouse, selling illegal weapons, and of killing a prostitute he said had serviced US soldiers. "We know he's setting up illegal checkpoints to attack, rob, and kill Iraqis," Hogg said. Al-Kubayshat was serving multiple life sentences for murder, but was released under a general amnesty granted by deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in October 2002. Operation Ivy Needle is expected to last for several days.

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