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Tall Afar Terrorists 'On the Run,' U.S. Officer Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2005 – Terrorists who once ran the western Iraq city of Tall Afar have been routed by American and Iraqi security forces, a U.S. military officer told Pentagon journalists today.

During a videoteleconference with reporters, Army Col. H.R. McMasters reported from Iraq how Tall Afar's citizens teamed up with U.S. and Iraqi forces to jettison insurgents who had used the area as a safe haven to conduct training and launch terror operations across the country.

The operation began in early May this year, McMasters noted, but fighting reached a climax early this month when insurgents were ejected from the city after heavy losses. About 5,000 Iraqi security forces and around 3,500 U.S. troops participated in Tall Afar operations during the past two weeks, the colonel said.

American and Iraqi security forces killed 118 insurgents in and around Tall Afar between Sept. 2 and 6, McMasters, commander of the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, noted.

McMasters said a "pall of fear" has been lifted from Tall Afar, which is near the Syrian border. The insurgents there had long brutalized the city's population with murders and kidnappings, he said.

Tall Afar's citizens became fed up with insurgents' brutality and were key factors in the successful campaign, McMasters said. Tall Afar's citizens had provided coalition forces with useful information such as locations of terrorist booby traps and mortar emplacements, he said.

The U.S. is employing "the right strategy" to defeat insurgents in Iraq by building up capable Iraqi security forces, including police, to eventually take over from coalition troops, McMasters said. Iraqi forces are growing more capable by the day, but they still need improved logistics and more capable junior leaders, he said.

Things in Iraq aren't "all rosy," McMasters acknowledged, but he maintained that the campaign against insurgents is moving in a "positive" direction.

He said the American people should be very proud of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq, noting that they and their coalition and Iraqi partners have "the enemy on the run."

And the Iraqi people should know that America is "going to stand by them" until the insurgents have been defeated, the colonel said.

The now-departed terrorists of Tall Afar "are some of the worst human beings on the face of the earth," McMasters said. And those surviving terrorists might try to return.

"But, we're not going to let them do it," the colonel vowed.

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