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U.S. Troops Defeat Enemy Attack, Kill More Than 20 Pro-Saddam 'Die-hard' Fighters

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2003 – American troops in Iraq blunted a night attack by pro-Saddam regime fighters, counter- attacked, and routed the enemy, killing more than 20 in a June 13 battle fought north of Baghdad, according to the top U.S. general in Iraq.

"Last night we had some actions against part of our forces in that area," Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of U.S. and coalition land forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom, remarked to Pentagon reporters from his Baghdad headquarters during a June 13 video teleconference.

"The (U.S.) battalion that was engaged pursued those (enemy) forces, made contact with them, and killed over 20 of them," he noted.

The fighting, McKiernan explained, involved U.S. forces participating in Operation Peninsula Strike, a series of raids and searches undertaken to eliminate Saddam-regime loyalists remaining in Iraq. The 4th Infantry is leading the strike force.

The battle was fought in an area known as "the Peninsula," McKiernan continued, that's located northeast of the city of Balad, which is north of Baghdad. The area is a "hot spot," he pointed out, that's been identified by intelligence sources as harboring supporters of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi fighters had attacked an element of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, which was working with the 4th division as part of Peninsula Strike, McKiernan explained.

The U.S. armor troops "were attacked at night, and then sought to gain and maintain contact with the enemy, which they did," McKiernan continued, "and then, took their toll on these attackers."

McKiernan noted that U.S. troops have detained more than 400 suspects as part of Peninsula Strike, which began June 9.

Many detainees have since been released, the lieutenant general said, "because they did not have any intelligence value they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

However, McKiernan noted, U.S. forces still have more than 50 Iraqis in custody who were captured during the operation.

These people will be moved to a U.S. detention facility in Baghdad, he said, where "we'll do some further interrogations on them."

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters June 10 at Fort Sao Juliao, Portugal, that surviving followers of the defunct Hussein regime "are the ones that are periodically attacking coalition forces, sometimes successfully."

These pro-Saddam die-hards include Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary, Baathists and former Iraqi military, Rumsfeld said.

"There are still those that are loyal to a regime that is no longer in power, that we will continue to have to seek out, close with, and either apprehend them or destroy them," McKiernan pointed out.

And it "will take some time," McKiernan pointed out, to root out Saddam supporters still in Iraq.

McKiernan, who's slated to soon turn over the command of Coalition Task Force 7 to Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, expressed his pride in the U.S. and coalition troops pulling duty in Iraq.

On May 1 President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. And, McKiernan noted, much has been done to promote peace and stability in Iraq in the 86 days since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced.

"I think it's a remarkable achievement of where we're at right now, given the fact that those 86 days were proceeded by 30 years of terrorism, brutality," the lieutenant general explained, noting the Iraqi people's quality of life has been improving every day since the end of the war.

Saddam controlled "a completely oppressive and repressive regime that took all the rich resources of Iraq and plowed them back into regime residences and military and did not invest those resources into the people of Iraq," McKiernan said.

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