Coalition Nabs Another 'Most Wanted' Fugitive
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2004 Another fugitive featured in the deck of 55 playing cards signifying the "most wanted" members of Saddam Hussein's regime is in coalition custody.
Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji was captured Feb. 7, Combined Joint Task Force 7 officials announced today.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the task force's deputy operations director, said Khafaji is being held "at a safe location" and is in good health. He was No. 48 on the "most wanted" list and served Saddam's Baath Party as a regional commander and as party chairman for the Qadisiyah district.
In other news from Iraq, a car bomb exploded today outside an Iraqi police station in Iskandaria, south of Baghdad, killing at least 35 people and wounding 75, Kimmitt said at a Baghdad news conference. The 82nd Airborne Division responded with an air quick-reaction force, medical assets, ground troops and investigative assets, he added. No coalition forces were wounded, the general said.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed and five others were wounded near Sinjar on Feb. 9 while confiscated enemy ammunition was being moved to a demolition point, Kimmitt said. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded and killed one soldier instantly, the general said, and a second soldier died en route to the 61st Combat Support Hospital. Three soldiers were admitted and were in stable condition, he added, and the other two were treated and returned to duty.
Kimmitt said the past week has seen an average of 22 engagements per day against coalition military forces in Iraq, fewer than three per day against Iraqi security forces and just under one per day against Iraqi civilians.
In the 24 hours leading up to today's 10:30 a.m. EST briefing, the general said, coalition forces conducted 1,495 patrols, 21 offensive operations and 10 raids. They captured 73 anti-coalition suspects.
In the northern zone, coalition soldiers and Iraqi security forces conducted 48 patrols, six offensive operations and detained six suspects.
Coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 375 patrols and 10 raids in the north-central zone, capturing 16 anti-coalition suspects. A patrol saw 10 men armed with automatic weapons and RPG launchers north of Muqaddiya the evening of Feb. 9, Kimmitt said, apparently setting up an ambush. The resulting firefight left all 10 dead and led to recovery of five AK-47 assault rifles, four RPG launchers, two RPK machine guns, two hand grenades and a pair of night-vision goggles.
In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi forces conducted 493 patrols, 37 escort missions and captured seven anti-coalition suspects.
Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces conducted 15 independent patrols as part of 257 conducted in the west. Ten suspects were captured in the region. The Ar Ar border crossing site saw 2,040 people and 66 buses crossed back into Iraq, as Muslims returned from their pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. To date, 5,357 people have returned from Saudi Arabia through this region, Kimmitt said.
Paratroopers from the 82nd conducted a cordon-and-search operation Feb. 9 in Umaylim, capturing six enemy personnel, including three "primary targets" of the operation, Kimmitt said. The soldiers confiscated small-arms weapons and materials for building remote-control explosive devices, he added.
In the central-south zone, coalition and Iraqi forces conducted 98 patrols, established 28 checkpoints and escorted 40 convoys.