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Coalition Aircraft Strike Zarqawi Stronghold

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2004 – Coalition aircraft hit a stronghold of fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi outside Fallujah, Iraq, today.

Forces attacked the site using precision-guided munitions. News reports indicate 14 people were killed and three injured, but a coalition statement did not include casualty figures.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian extremist, has claimed responsibility for many of the terrorist strikes in Iraq, including the explosions that destroyed the U.N. headquarters in the country and strikes against Kurdish targets. Zarqawi hopes to incite civil war in Iraq, U.S. officials said, citing a letter he wrote to al Qaeda leaders that was intercepted last year.

Military officials said Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi approved the strike. The strike destroyed a house and fighting positions around it, according to a written statement from coalition deputy operations chief Army Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel. The release said about 25 foreign fighters were in the house before the strike.

Also in Fallujah, an Iraqi National Guard soldier was killed and another was injured by a car bomb that also injured five Iraqi civilians near the Iraqi National Guard Headquarters compound in Mahmudiyah July 17. The Iraqi National Guardsman had stopped the vehicle and realized it was a trap when the driver set off the explosives. U.S. Marine officials said in a release that the "soldier's alertness and quick thinking undoubtedly saved many lives and minimized the numbers of those injured by the blast."

In the north, a Task Force Olympia soldier was killed and another was injured after their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb near Baji July 17. In Baghdad, a bomb killed five Iraqis who were part of a convoy July 17.

Philippine soldiers continue their withdrawal from Iraq. The troops could be out of the country as early as July 19, officials said. The Philippine government is withdrawing the soldiers from the Polish-led Multinational Division Central/South in the hope this will cause terrorist kidnappers to release a captive taken July 7 near Fallujah. U.S. officials strongly disapprove of the Philippine government's actions. They believe the withdrawal only encourages terrorists.

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
Text of Intercepted Zarqawi Letter

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