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Coalition Offensives in Iraq Kill, Capture Suspected Terrorists

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2008 – As successful air strikes highlighted a new series of coordinated offensives in Iraq, coalition forces killed five suspected terrorists, nabbed 17 others and seized weapons caches over the past two days.

Using precision strikes today, coalition aircraft hit more than 40 targets in addition to destroying reported al Qaeda safe havens in Arab Jabour. Coalition operators dropped 38 bombs within the first 10 minutes, a total tonnage of 40,000 pounds, military officials said.

A joint operation between the Air Force and soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team required extensive planning to prevent collateral damage and to deny the area’s use for attacks into Baghdad and against coalition forces, officials said. Two B-1 bombers and four F-16 fighter jets directed bombs at three large target areas. Each bomber made two passes, and the F-16s followed to complete the mission set.

The precision air strikes supported Operation Phantom Phoenix, the overarching operation that includes Operation Marne Thunderbolt. The coordinated assaults are the latest in a series of combat operations by Multinational Division Center focused on pursuing al Qaeda and clearing terrorist safe havens southeast of Baghdad, military officials said.

Helicopters from 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, are striking extremists on a regular basis during Operation Marne Thunderbolt. Since early January, Apache helicopters have relentlessly pursued the enemy in the area, Army Lt. Col. Robert Wilson, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade executive officer, said.

“We've been conducting detailed zone reconnaissance and intelligence-driven engagements to set the conditions for follow-on operations in support of Marne Thunderbolt and Phantom Phoenix,” he added.

Wilson said the Apaches' effectiveness comes from the fact that they are not bound by a two-dimensional battlefield.

“We allow the commanding general and all his subordinate commanders to get inside the enemy's decision cycle, timeline and even his sanctuaries while minimizing the risk to friendly forces and capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of the enemies of the Iraqi people,” Wilson said.

Meanwhile, 2nd Brigade Combat Team ground troops are working with Iraqi security forces in the area to keep pressure on the enemy as patrol bases are built and security is restored, military officials said.

As part of the offensive on Jan. 8, coalition forces killed four enemy personnel and wounded three more shortly after an engineer vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device near Muqdadiyah during Operation Raider Harvest, another Operation Phantom Phoenix component.

The IED struck soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, while clearing a route in the Diyala province, a known al Qaeda in Iraq safe haven, military officials said. No troops were injured in the attack.

An air weapons team operating in the area spotted several armed personnel running from the IED site into a nearby house. The team fired a missile at the target, killing four and wounding three others. Subsequent explosions occurred after the missile strike, leading military officials to believe the house was being used as an al Qaeda in Iraq safe house and weapons cache.

In Iraq today:

-- Coalition forces captured a suspected terrorist southwest of Mahmudiyah believed to be associated with the al Qaeda in Iraq senior leader of the network south of Baghdad. Troops also killed one suspected terrorists, detained seven others and seized a weapons cache during the raid.

-- Troops captured a suspected terrorist in Baghdad reportedly involved in exchanging explosive materials and vehicles and facilitating the movement of suicide bombers for use in terrorist operations throughout the capital. The suspect allegedly is associated with foreign terrorist networks and has ties to numerous al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna leadership operating in and outside Iraq, military officials said.

-- Coalition forces captured a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq member in Mosul believed to be responsible for a group of terrorists who conducted assassinations in Hawija. The group reportedly targets Iraqi and coalition troops, military officials said.

-- Coalition troops in Samarra captured an alleged al Qaeda in Iraq leader of the Raga Village network and detained three suspected terrorists. The primary suspect is reportedly a close associate of a senior-level foreign-terrorist facilitator, as well as several al Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders. During a separate operation northeast of the city, troops captured four more suspects while targeting an associate of the terrorist networks in Samarra and Salahuddin.

In eastern Baghdad’s Nissan district Jan. 9, soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, found a weapons cache. The stockpile contained copper plating, two explosively formed projectiles, two rocket-propelled grenades, an AK-47 assault rifle, five 105 mm mortar rounds, eight anti-personnel mines, wire, and three artillery rounds of undetermined size. A concerned citizen provided the tip that lead troops to the cache, military officials said.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq and Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Multinational Corps Iraq
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