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U.S. Still on Offensive after Support to Iraqi Referendum

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2005 – U.S military forces in Iraq are staying on the offensive after completing security operations in support of that country's landmark, Oct. 15 constitutional referendum, officials said.

Coalition forces reportedly killed several terrorists in a raid on a terrorist safe house in Karabilah, in western Iraq, on Oct. 16. The raid was part of a large-scale anti-terrorist operation that, apparently, had multiple intelligence sources. The safe house was being used to attack local Iraqi citizens, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, officials said.

When they arrived at the suspected safe house, coalition forces reportedly were engaged by armed terrorists who were attempting to get away. Coalition troops pursued and engaged the terrorists, killing three. They then found a small cache of weapons, ammunition and grenades, officials said.

During the initial firefight, two terrorists moved to adjacent houses where coalition soldiers engaged and killed them, officials added.

The assault force also discovered five armed terrorists who were setting up a mortar position. Coalition troops called in close-air support and destroyed the position. All five terrorists were killed, officials said.

Coalition raids, they added, have continually destroyed and disrupted al Qaeda's terrorist network in Iraq.

Coalition forces captured one of Al Qaeda's chief propagandists in Iraq -- Yasir Khudr Muhammad Jasim al-Karbali (aka Abu Dijana) -- during a Sept. 25 raid. Dijana reportedly was al Qaeda's propaganda cell leader for the cities of Karabilah, Al Qaim and Husaybah.

Abu Dijana's cell was comprised of photographers. They used video and still photographic images to document insurgent attacks against Iraqi citizens and Iraqi and coalition forces, officials said.

Dijana's operation apparently worked in the following way: Local Al Qaeda leaders notified him of impending attacks in their areas. Dijana then contacted his terrorist cell members and provided them with equipment and supplies to record the attacks, officials said.

Dijana sent photographs and video of the attacks to other senior al Qaeda propagandists in Iraq. The images were made into terrorist propaganda products for distribution on print and Internet sites. These images were designed to intimidate Iraqi citizens and security forces, officials said.

Elsewhere in Iraq, five soldiers engaged in combat operations in Ramadi were killed in action when their vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device on Oct. 15. The five soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

A Marine in Salqlawiyah also was killed while engaged in combat operations when an IED blew up near his vehicle, Oct. 15. The Marine was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Despite these deaths, officials said the level of overall violence in Iraq has been quite subdued in the days leading up to and including the landmark Constitutional referendum.

"The 2nd Marine Division and our partners in the Iraqi Security Forces have ... provide[d] a safe and secure environment for the citizens of Al Anbar Province to go to the polls," said 2d Marine Division Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck. "Together, we provided security for 139 polling sites, [thereby] allowing every citizen the opportunity to vote."

More than 100,000 eligible voters in Al Anbar Province voted yesterday. That's "far better" than the vote tally last January, Huck said. He attributed this success to "recent and ongoing operations by coalition and Iraqi security forces in the western Euphrates River Valley.

"Major operations such as Iron Fist, River Gate and Mountaineers - along with numerous smaller operations - neutralized the terrorists' stated goal of disrupting the referendum," Huck said. "These operations have uncovered dozens of seized weapons caches, resulted in the detention of hundreds of suspected insurgents, and eliminated terrorist sanctuaries throughout the province."

Texas Army National Guard Soldiers and Marines from the 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward) discovered a weapons cache near a primary school polling site in Al Anbar on Oct. 14. The soldiers and Marines reportedly made the discovery after being alerted by Iraqi citizens.

The cache complex was situated in multiple underground locations and a house. It included buried mortar rounds, assorted ammunition, anti-election propaganda and terrorist paraphernalia, officials said.

A search of a nearby house yielded 82mm mortars, mortar tubes, IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades, RPG launchers, satchel charges, blasting caps, 82mm shells, grenades, fully loaded automatic rifles and heavy machine guns. They also discovered 122mm rocket motors, two-way radios for IED attacks, batteries, wire spools, ski masks and flak jackets, officials said.

In addition, the soldiers and Marines discovered, on a nearby roof, homemade rocket launchers, which were directed toward the town's school. The school had been designated as a polling site.

Similar success was achieved by coalition forces operating throughout Iraq, officials said. More than 250,000 new voters in the Baghdad area, for instance, voted in yesterday's referendum. This reportedly includes some areas north and west of Baghdad, which did not participate in last January elections.

Moreover, officials said that none of the 1,300 polling sites in the Baghdad area were penetrated by terrorists - and there were just 36 attacks in north central Iraq. That's less than one-third the level of terrorist activity that occurred in January, officials said.

"For one crucial day, Baghdad neighborhoods were not rattled by loud explosions from suicide bombers," said Army Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams, a spokesman with Task Force Baghdad. There was "relative peace and quiet."

In all, about 15.5 million of Iraq's 26 million people were registered to vote.

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