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SAM Hits Cargo Jet, 3 Dead as Ops Continue in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2003 – Baghdad International Airport was closed to all civilian traffic after a DHL cargo aircraft was hit by surface-to-air missiles Nov. 22, coalition officials said during a press conference today in Baghdad, Iraq.

Three U.S. soldiers also were killed in Iraq, said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7. Kimmitt said gunfire was involved in the deaths of the soldiers, but would not comment further.

Coalition officials said the airport will continue to receive military flights, but flights by civilian aircraft carrying military supplies and humanitarian goods cannot use the facility. Kimmitt said the civilian DHL aircraft reported an emergency south of Baghdad and made an emergency landing. The three-member crew is safe, he said.

The plane apparently was hit by a surface-to-air missile launched from an area south of the airport. There was extensive damage to the left wing of the aircraft, Kimmitt said. U.S. Air Force personnel are investigating the incident.

The general said coalition offensive operations continue the length and breadth of Iraq. He said the attacks anti-coalition forces are launching on coalition troops are "insignificant." Kimmitt said the coalition is facing an enemy that cannot defeat it militarily. "In engagement after engagement, we see the enemy breaking off and running away," he said. "Militarily, their attacks are insignificant against coalition forces."

Reporters asked how U.S. troops have changed tactics against the enemy that seems to want to get closer to coalition troops. "There are offensive operations that we have conducted recently -- Iron Hammer, Ivy Cyclone, Rifle Blitz -- that are causing us to get awful close to the enemy as well," Kimmitt said. "Every time we fight them, we win. Our soldiers are not afraid of this enemy. This enemy is not well-trained; he may be clever at times." He said overall the country remains stable, and all forces are on the alert.

Kimmitt provided statistics showing the breadth of coalition efforts in Iraq. Overall, forces made 2,043 patrols, conducted 16 raids and captured 182 men. In the northern part of the country, the 101st Airborne Division also conducted seven "cordon-and-knock" operations and conducted a number of no- notice traffic stops in which 16 individuals were detained. "Two of the individuals were carrying $81,000 in U.S. cash," Kimmitt said.

Also in the north, another sign of a return to normal was the first passenger train from Syria arriving at the Mosul train station, the general said.

In the Baathist Triangle, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division continued Operation Ivy Cyclone II. The soldiers captured 12 people. Soldiers also conducted a raid in Baquba and captured a lieutenant general of the former Iraqi army. The soldiers seized rifles, ammunition and documents.

Soldiers also searched an area 15 kilometers east of Balad for two people suspected on launching attacks on coalition personnel. "In all, nine people were captured, along with weapons an ammunition," Kimmitt said.

In Baghdad, the 1st Armored Division has launched the third phase of Operation Iron Hammer. Soldiers conducted 568 patrols and captured more than 40 people.

In the 82nd Airborne Division's sector, raids netted 35 enemy personnel. Kimmitt said those people had 12 Syrian passports and an Egyptian passport.

The Multinational Division Central/South based around Hillah conducted a number of patrols and captured 11 Iraqis along with ammunition and weapons. In Basra, the British-led forces also conducted patrols -- often with Iraqi police -- and detained eight people, Kimmitt said.

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