Fallujah Stable, 'Robust' Manhunt for Zarqawi Under Way
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 13, 2004 The security situation in Fallujah, Iraq, remains stable, and coalition forces there are engaged in a "robust hunt" for al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed to be in or near the city, coalition officials said today.
"We believe right now Fallujah to be the hotbed for foreign fighters who are in Iraq, in which we include Zarqawi," senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor told reporters in Baghdad today. He would not provide details on how the manhunt is being pursued.
Zarqawi, a Jordanian national, has a $10 million bounty on his head. He is a convicted terrorist, and has claimed responsibility for numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq. He is believed to be the author of an intercepted letter intended for the highest levels of al Qaeda leadership. The letter provides a blueprint for inciting civil war and promulgating disorder in Iraq to derail progress toward Iraqi sovereignty.
Marines captured two known terrorists and three individuals suspected of terrorist activity, said Combined Joint Task Force 7 news release today. All were captured in a coordinated raid near Kharma, a small town northeast of Fallujah. Marines recovered four AK-47 rifles, two shotguns and three other small arms in the seizure, along with four AK-47 magazines and 3,000 rounds.
In other action, Marines near Kharma came under intense fire from about 100 enemy combatants located in buildings on the outskirts of town, according to the release. The Marines maneuvered, returned fire and called artillery and close-air support to destroy the enemy.
Also, Marines in the western reaches of Anbar province, near the Syrian border, discovered two sets of improvised explosive devices. One set was a series of four IEDs buried in dirt mounds along a road; the other was constructed of two 155 mm artillery rounds. Engineers and explosive ordinance disposal technicians cleared both sets, with no explosions or casualties.
A 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed and another soldier and civilian contractor were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on their convoy south of Baghdad today, another CJTF 7 release said today. The wounded were evacuated to a military medical facility near Najaf and were reported to in stable condition. Their names are being withheld until their families are notified.
Despite the latest casualty, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said violence in most cities throughout Iraq has quieted, and the area of operations for coalition forces remains stable. Kimmitt is deputy operations director for CJTF 7.
Kimmitt provided details of more operations and events in Iraq:
In the north, government buildings and infrastructure are secure, and facility protection service and Iraqi security forces are maintaining order. And the situation remains stable in Mosul after municipal leaders made televised addresses to discuss the importance of working with Iraqi security forces and maintaining order.
A coalition base in the city was attacked April 11 with indirect fire, but there were no casualties or damage to equipment.
In Tall Afar, the Iraqi armed forces base camp was attacked by indirect fire April 10, but no casualties were reported.
The north-central zone of operations, where coalition forces remain on the offensive, has seen a decrease in anti-coalition attacks over the past week. However, Kimmitt said, coalition military leaders expect an increase in anti- coalition activity, with demonstrations in a number of cities planned.
Five attacks were reported in Tikrit, and two more in Tuz. An improvised explosive device attack April 12 wounded two coalition soldiers. Three more attacks were reported in Samara, and four in Baqubah.
In Baghdad, the 1st Calvary Division is moving against radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia and other extremist forces, Kimmitt said. During intelligence-based raids overnight, the division captured 16 suspects. Today, coalition forces detained 29 more suspects and confiscated numerous arms and ammunition.
Kimmitt said Hazim al-Araji, a spokesman for Sadr, was detained today for questioning and later released. After questioning, Araji was determined to have "no direct involvement in violent acts in Iraq, and is not viewed as an imminent threat to security," he said. "He was released at 5:50 p.m. today."
A CJTF 7 news release reported that 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, soldiers discovered 45 150-pound bombs near Kirkuk today. The site was secured and an explosive ordnance disposal team was sent to assess the cache.
Senor said several individuals have approached coalition officials seeking a peaceful resolution to the issue of Sadr's militia; however, he added the coalition's position is very clear.
"We respect and appreciate their good intentions; we too want to minimize the bloodshed. But we have a few principles that are very clear: The rule of law must prevail in Iraq. There is no role for illegal militias and illegal mobs and mob violence. There is no role for individual organizations that take control of government properties," Senor said.
In the Anbar province, Marine forces continue offensive operations, except in Fallujah, where a fragile cease-fire is in effect.
Kimmitt said that earlier this morning in the city, a helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing due to ground fire. "The attack resulted in three wounded, and a quick-reaction force secured the crew." Kimmitt said the helicopter was destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
In Ramadi and the central-south zone of operations, the situation is relatively stable, and Kimmitt voiced relief that there have been no attacks in Karbala, where millions of religious pilgrims came for the celebration of al-Arbaeen.
Security also is improving in the city of Kut, where there has been no resistance against coalition forces in the city, and the coalition force there has had freedom of movement, Kimmitt said. The deputy CPA administrator and 16 staff members returned to their offices there, he added, and are expected to be fully operational in the near future.
He said intelligence raids in the city led to the arrest of six suspects. Ukrainian soldiers, meanwhile, have "re-assumed responsibility" for two bridges.
Kimmitt also reported that the cities of Diwaniyah and Najaf are stable, although anti-coalition forces continue to conduct harassing attacks on coalition base camps at night.
In addition, the Multinational Division Southeast too is calm. Kimmitt said only one attack on coalition forces took place over the past 24 hours, and there were no attacks in Amarah, Basra, Nasiriyah and Samawa during that same period. A British Warrior fighting vehicle was engaged by what was believed to be a rocket-propelled grenade followed by small-arms fire. There were no casualties in either attack.