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'Steel Curtain' Continues, 3 U.S. Troops Die In Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2005 – One U.S. soldier and two Marines were killed in Iraq Nov. 12 as a week-old operation to clear out insurgents from western Iraq continues, according to U.S. military press releases.

The deceased soldier, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, 2 Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died in a non-hostile vehicle accident near Rawah.

Two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, 2 Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), were killed when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device during combat operations in Al Amiriyah.

Officials are withholding the names of those killed until their families are notified.

Meanwhile, Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 2 are in the final phases of clearing operations in the western Iraq border town of Karabilah as part of Operation Steel Curtain, officials reported. The goal of the operation is to restore Iraqi sovereign control along the Iraq-Syria border and destroy al Qaeda terrorists operating throughout the al Qaim region.

Steel Curtain began Nov. 5 when Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines cordoned off Husaybah and began clearing the city from west to east. The force then moved through two kilometers of desert before reaching and clearing the town of Karabilah, officials said.

Some terrorists were reported to have fled from Husaybah into nearby Karabilah. When the Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines entered Karabilah Nov. 9, they found that al Qaeda terrorists had hidden IEDs throughout the city, slowing but not stopping the clearing operations.

Since clearing operations began in Karabilah, 19 IEDs, three homes booby-trapped with explosives and one vehicle car bomb have been discovered, but only one small-arms attack was conducted against Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines.

Iraqi soldiers established a safe area for residents at the outset of the operation. The soldiers provided food, lodging, medical support and security to local residents until it was safe for them to return to their homes, officials said.

Iraqi and U.S. forces are establishing bases within the two cities. This presence will provide stability and reduce terrorist influence in the al Qaim region, officials said.

The offensive is part of the larger Operation Hunter, designed to prevent al Qaeda in Iraq members from operating in the Euphrates River Valley and throughout al Anbar. It also aims to establish a permanent Iraqi Army presence in the al Qaim region.

In other developments, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers captured five suspected terrorists following a Nov. 12 mortar attack against an Iraqi army officer's home near Baqubah, Iraq.

The Iraqi and U.S. forces came under small-arms fire as they approached the area and called for air support. The terrorists were quickly overwhelmed. They'd fired nearly a dozen mortar rounds at the officer's house, but the building wasn't hit, officials said.

And, Iraqi police and Task Force Band of Brothers' soldiers found and disposed of two weapons caches Nov. 12.

The discovery was made at an abandoned Iraqi Army compound near Kirkuk. The cache consisted of 22 proximity fuses for artillery rounds, two mortar rounds and two crates of small-arms ammunition.

U.S. soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team discovered a second cache near Hawija. The soldiers seized and destroyed 19 rockets and a shaped charge designed to penetrate armored vehicles.

Removing weapons from terrorist hands is a priority for Iraqi and U.S. forces in the area, officials said. During the past week, a dozen caches have been unearthed in the country's north central region by Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers.

Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Intervention Force, and coalition forces confiscated a weapons cache in southeastern Fallujah, Nov. 12.

The cache contained four 106mm rounds, one 120mm mortar round, one 155mm artillery round and a bucket of primers. No injuries or damages were reported.

Also, Iraqi army troops from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, and coalition forces detained two insurgents after a brief exchange of gunfire Nov. 12 in Barwanah. The insurgents fled the area, but two of them were later caught and detained by a coalition quick-reaction force.

The insurgents were detained for further questioning by authorities. No injuries or damages were reported.

Also, coalition aircraft flew 63 close-air support and armed-reconnaissance sorties Nov. 12 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions included support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities, officials reported. Coalition aircraft also supported Iraqi and coalition ground forces operations to create a secure environment for ongoing Transitional National Assembly meetings.

A U.S. Air Force Predator performed an air strike against an improvised explosive device location in the vicinity of Karabilah, expending a Hellfire missile with successful effects.

U.S. Navy F-14 and F/A-18s aircraft provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinities of Hawijah, Iskandariyah and Baqubah, officials reported.

In addition, 15 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft flew missions in support of operations in Iraq. Also, U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force fighter aircraft performed in a non-traditional ISR role with their electro-optical and infrared sensors.

And, Task Force Band of Brothers soldiers engaged and killed a terrorist in the process of emplacing an improvised explosive device in Samarra, Nov. 11.

The soldiers observed the man burying the IED under a pile of trash near an intersection, officials said. An explosive ordnance disposal team was called in and removed three 120mm artillery shells from the site.

Also, Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces continue to root out terrorists in the Baghdad area as part of Operation National Unity.

"Iraqi and U.S. soldiers are bravely carrying out their mission to provide a safe and secure environment for the democratic process to grow in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone, Task Force Baghdad spokesman. Iraqi security forces and coalition forces continue to score daily successes against insurgents in the Baghdad area, he said.

In one 96-hour period in November, Task Force Baghdad conducted more than 1,030 patrols, carried out 100 cordon-and-searches and raids, and set up more than 400 tactical checkpoints during aggressive combat operations throughout the Baghdad area.

During combat operations Nov. 6 to 11, coalition forces detained more than 250 terror suspects, found seven weapons caches and discovered 37 IEDs before they could be detonated. This is typical of the missions U.S. soldiers in Baghdad engage in every week as they work to create an environment where Iraqi security forces can contain and eventually defeat the insurgency, Whetstone noted.

Task Force Baghdad officials cite operations on Nov. 11 as examples of how U.S. and Iraqi forces are "taking the fight to the terrorists."

For instance, U.S. soldiers from 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment interrupted a suspected assassination attempt in progress in the Ghazaliyah district. Around 6:30 p.m., the U.S. patrol reported taking small-arms fire from three individuals running from a store where they were believed to be intimidating or attempting to assassinate civilians inside. The Americans returned fire on the fleeing terrorists, killing two of them. No civilians were harmed in the incident.

Earlier in the day, an Iraqi-U.S. patrol northwest of Baghdad nabbed a terror suspect. The patrol from the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, and 2nd Mechanized Battalion, 1st Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division encountered a roadside bomb around noon and immediately took small-arms fire from two nearby cars.

U.S. soldiers returned fire and chased the vehicles from the area. The soldiers returned to the IED site and found a secondary device. An explosives ordnance disposal team was called in to destroy the 155-millimeter round. Meanwhile, the Iraqi soldiers watched an individual throw a possible trigger device into a nearby canal. The suspect was detained and processed into the Iraqi judicial system. There were no injuries to Iraqi or U.S. forces during the incident.

In another example of coalition troops responding with a show of force to a terrorist attack, a patrol from 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry killed a terrorist who fired on them with an AK-47 assault rifle around 7 a.m. south of the Abu Ghraib Prison Facility.

Iraqi forces with 1st Battalion, 4th Public Order Brigade operating in Doura reported a success of their own around 5:30 p.m. when they caught a terrorist emplacing an IED along a major highway. A U.S. explosive ordnance disposal team recovered the 107mm rocket and the Iraqi army unit detained the terrorist for more questioning.

U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team discovered other explosives as they patrolled east Baghdad. Around noon, soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment reported finding a 130mm round in the median of a major road. They secured the area and called for an explosive ordnance disposal team. The soldiers also found a secondary device consisting of 120mm and 100mm rounds encased in concrete.

In another location, Iraqi civilians waved down a patrol from the 26th Forward Support Battalion and told them of a suspicious device at the intersection of two main roads in the area shortly after 3 p.m. The U.S. soldiers cordoned off the site and called in an explosive ordnance disposal team to recover what turned out to be a potentially deadly IED.

"We (U.S. forces) are not the determining factor with respect to the ultimate defeat of the terrorists-the Iraqi people are," said Col. Joseph DiSalvo, 2nd BCT commander. "The terrorists have no chance as long as the Iraqi people stand up against them."

Task Force Baghdad Soldiers also seized weapons and munitions during combat operations Nov. 11. While searching a house, U.S. soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division found three cases of 20mm anti-aircraft ammunition, the equivalent of almost $5,000 in dinars and two loaded AK-47 assault rifles. Two terror suspects were detained at the house and held for further questioning.

Another 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division unit recently found a cache consisting of four 3-foot rockets at a site southwest of Baghdad.

Task Force Baghdad officials said Operation National Unity is succeeding to keep Baghdad terrorists on the defensive.

(Information compiled from various U.S. military press releases.)

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