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Baghdad Raids Helped Preempt Referendum-Day Attacks

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2005 – Preemptive raids conducted by U.S., other coalition and Iraqi forces in and around the Iraqi capital before the Oct. 15 referendum helped limit insurgent attacks on voting day, the U.S. military commander for troops in Baghdad said today.

"We knew that the insurgents were going to try to step up the level of violence to overthrow the government or at least to discourage people from participating in the referendum," Army Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters during a satellite-teleconference briefing.

The insurgents failed to disrupt Baghdad polling places "partially because we have conducted a high level of operations over the past several months to get ready for this referendum," Webster said.

Those efforts paid off, Webster said. "There were only 12 (enemy) attacks in Baghdad" on referendum day," he noted. "In contrast, there were 103 enemy attacks in Baghdad during the Jan. 30 election."

Baghdad-based U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces have been "killing and capturing a number of Iraqi insurgents" in recent months, causing a decline in the effectiveness of terrorist operations, Webster said. Today, only about 15 percent of terror attacks in Baghdad cause property damage or injury, Webster said.

U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces are now conducting more than 800 anti-terror operations daily, Webster said. Those operations involve combat patrols to obtain intelligence about enemy movements, traffic roadblocks, and night raids to capture suspected insurgent leaders, he said.

Webster said nearly 600 suspected insurgents were captured and detained during the two weeks prior to the referendum. That represents nearly double the number of suspects usually detained over that length of time, he said. And 62 insurgents who fought capture were killed during those operations, he said.

Anti-insurgent operations conducted in Baghdad just before the referendum uncovered more than 27 weapons caches, some very large, that contained electronics, sniper rifles and scopes, Webster said.

Webster also said he was impressed by "the intense level of work" performed by Iraqi security forces in safeguarding polling places during the referendum and "the arrangements that were set up by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to stop traffic in Baghdad and to control the movement of the population."

Taken together, U.S., coalition and Iraqi security efforts "produced a very safe day for us" on referendum day, Webster said.

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