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Huge Weapons Cache Yields Thousands of Buried Rounds

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2005 – Iraqi and U.S. forces have removed more than 4,200 mortar rounds from a major weapons cache found Nov. 27 outside of an abandoned military base near Kirkuk, Iraq, military officials reported.

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A smoke cloud rises at dusk after an explosive ordnance disposal team destroys weapons and munitions found on an island in the Euphrates River Nov. 28. Photo by 2nd Lt. Paul Fisher, USA
  

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Iraqi soldiers discovered the buried rounds that morning.

The soldiers removed about 800 mortar rounds before realizing the cache was much larger than originally thought. U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team were called in to help excavate the munitions and secure the area.

The ammunition was buried under concrete blocks with dirt mounded on top. All ammunition removed so far has come from one mound located in a field full of similar mounds. The explosives ordnance disposal team at the site expects to find more rounds as the search expands throughout the field.

"It was a good find," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Wayne, the explosives team chief at the site. "I'm glad we found it over someone else. All those rounds are potential (improvised explosive devices). We just stopped that many more IEDs."

The rounds will be destroyed in a controlled detonation. Multiple caches found Nov. 28 on an island in the Euphrates River already have been destroyed, Task Force Baghdad officials said.

Military officials had been monitoring suspicious activity near the Euphrates River southwest of Baghdad for a couple of weeks, officials said. When conditions were right, soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were ready to spring into action.

"The timing was right to attack the target," said Army Col. Todd Ebel, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander. "The pieces of the puzzle fit close enough."

Soldiers from the team's 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, secured the objective and discovered three significant weapons caches. Soldiers also searched surrounding homes and facilities, detaining two suspected terrorists.

In total, the soldiers uncovered 11 500-pound bomb shells, C4 explosives, welding equipment, mortar rounds, miscellaneous bomb-making material, 57 mm rockets, 40 bags of fertilizer, 12 directional charges, five 155 mm rounds, 100 feet of detonation cord, three rocket-propelled grenades, eight bags of 20 mm rounds, and other munitions and explosives.

"The large bombs and welding material are critical," Ebel said. "It is likely this material was used for improvised explosive devices and possibly vehicle-borne IEDs that threaten Iraqi citizens and coalition forces. I could not be more proud of these 2/101st soldiers. They do this every day to help bring peace. No one could ask more of them."

In other news, operations have begun to clear weapons and terrorists from the streets for the Dec. 15 national elections. Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers began operations near Hit in the Hai Al Becker region today.

About 500 Iraqi army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, and 1,500 Marines and sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, along with 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, are conducting Operation Iron Hammer east of Hit, about 170 miles from Baghdad.

The Hai Al Becker region is suspected to be an al Qaeda safe area and base of operations for the making of car bombs and roadside bombs, officials said. It also is believed to be a stopping point for terrorists as they transit the "rat lines" down the Euphrates River from Syria into the interior of Iraq.

In early July, Iraqi and U.S. forces established a long-term security presence in Hit during Operation Sword. During Sword, few terrorists were located; however, a score of weapons caches have been discovered in the region.

Iron Hammer will clear the area on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, an area not typically patrolled by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

On Nov. 29, Task Force Baghdad soldiers teamed up with Iraqi security forces to conduct Operation Thunder Blitz in southern Baghdad, resulting in the capture of 33 terror suspects.

Moving rapidly into the area, hundreds of U.S. soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and Iraqi forces from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Commando Brigade, Wolf Battalion, took the enemy by surprise, securing seven different objective areas along the Tigris River. (Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Task Force Baghdad news releases.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, provide security along a perimeter as other soldiers from the unit search an island in the Euphrates River for weapons caches and terrorists. Photo by 2nd Lt. Paul Fisher, USA  
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