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'Desert Scorpion' Searches for Anti-coalition Forces, Banned Weapons

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2003 – U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq continued the search for Saddam loyalists and banned heavy weapons as Operation Desert Scorpion began June 15, according to U.S. Central Command news releases.

Desert Scorpion, like its predecessor Operation Peninsula Strike, which began June 9, continues the search for rocket-propelled grenade rounds, explosives and other illegal weapons in Iraq, banned under the National Weapons Policy implemented June 1, according to CENTCOM.

As Desert Scorpion started up June 15, CENTCOM noted that an anti-coalition fighter fired a rocket-propelled grenade round at U.S. soldiers who were part of a 4th Infantry Division convoy near the Iraqi town of al Mushahidah, north of Baghdad.

The rocket round hit a civilian bus near the convoy, according to CENTCOM, and U.S. troops returned fire.

In separate action the same day, enemy forces attacked another U.S. military convoy near ad Dujayl, CENTCOM said.

U.S. troops also returned fire in that incident, CENTCOM noted, and the attackers were pursued.

CENTCOM said U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are continuing military operations to locate and defeat pockets of Saddam supporters still in Iraq.

Peninsula Strike, a series of raids and searches led by the Army's 4th Infantry Division, resulted in the seizure of more than 400 suspected Saddam loyalists and the confiscation of numerous weapons and ammunition, according to CENTCOM. As of June 14, all but 30 of the detainees had been released. Those remaining in U.S. custody were undergoing interrogation.

American troops involved in Peninsula Strike had blunted a June 13 night attack by pro-Saddam regime fighters, counterattacked and routed the enemy in a battle fought north of Baghdad, said Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of coalition land forces, to Pentagon reporters from his Baghdad headquarters June 13.

CENTCOM noted in a June 14 release that four U.S. soldiers who were wounded during Peninsula Strike operations had been evacuated and were in stable condition. Two hostile Iraqis had been wounded during Peninsula Strike operations, CENTCOM said, adding that the Iraqis had also received medical treatment.

Also, two Iraqi general officers turned themselves in to coalition troops during one Peninsula Strike raid, CENTCOM said. They are Maj. Gen. Abul Ali Jasmin, secretary of the defense ministry, and Brig. Gen. Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of Iraqi Military Academy. Both men are being detained for questioning.

And Hamid Raja Shalah al-Tikriti, another person on CENTCOM's "Iraqi Top 55 list" was recently taken into coalition custody, according to a June 14 CENTCOM release. The Iraqi, who was the commander of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's air force, is No. 17 on the list.

Ambassador Paul Bremer, director of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said June 12 from his Baghdad headquarters that more than half of the 55 former Iraqi officials in the defunct Hussein regime are in custody or are dead.

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