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Forces Kill, Capture Dozens of Enemy Fighters

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2008 – Coalition and Iraqi forces killed or captured dozens of terrorists and criminal militia members during multiple engagements in Iraq yesterday, military officials said.

In Suq Ash Shuyukh, southeast of Nasiriyah, Iraq, a combined force of more than 300 Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics personnel, advised by U.S. Special Operations Forces, killed 40 criminal militia members and arrested an additional 40 after the Iraqi forces were attacked by the militia members.

Using assault rifles and automatic weapons, the criminal militia attacked Iraqi Security Forces in the morning. Regional police and Army forces on alert in the area responded in force, overwhelming the outnumbered criminal militia fighters.

Facing a combination of armored vehicles and suppressive fire, the criminals retreated to a building that contained the local Sadr Trend office. With Iraqi special weapons and tactics personnel providing support, additional security forces launched a counter attack, overrunning the remaining enemy defenses. The ISF entered the building and cleared it of the remaining criminals.

During the sweep of the building, ISF found a large weapons cache containing explosively formed penetrators, Katyusha rockets, rocket propelled grenade launchers and a large quantity of additional weapons and ammunition. An explosive ordnance disposal team also found several improvised explosive devices rigged to explode inside the building. All weapons were destroyed on site.

Many local Iraqis witnessed the fighting and thanked the ISF for their bravery and willingness to defend their town.

“The response of the combined ISF force represented an incredible leap forward by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army to conduct joint operations,” said a U.S. Special Operations Forces advisor. "Iraqi police and Iraqi Army executed a counter attack against a determined enemy and quickly gained control of the situation.”

The operation was part of the Iraqi government's continuing fight against terrorists, insurgents and criminals standing in the way of a safe and secure Iraq. In recent months, ISF personnel have assumed greater autonomy to plan and conduct these types of operations unilaterally or with Coalition forces.

In eastern Baghdad, a Multinational Division Baghdad aerial weapons teams, or AWT, killed seven criminals as ground forces seized weapons in separate incidents.

Around 6:30 p.m., the AWT located two criminals transporting weapons in Sadr City district, in the eastern section of the Iraqi capital. The AWT engaged them with a Hellfire missile, killing both criminals and destroying two machine guns.

About two hours later, criminals using small-arms fire attacked coalition forces. The troops returned fire, killing one.

Elsewhere in Sadr City around the same time, a separate coalition unit retaliated against another group of criminals mounting an attack. Troops killed one criminal in the engagement.

At around 9:40 p.m., a separate AWT identified four weapons crates in an open Sadr City field of the district. The AWT engaged and destroyed the crates.

In a separate incident about thirty minutes later, an AWT fired a Hellfire missile at three criminals with weapons, killing them.

Earlier in the day, during a morning raid in southern Sadr City, soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment seized a weapons cache in a fire station. The cache included more than a dozen AK-47 rifles with multiple loaded magazines, a machine gun with magazines, more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as various miscellaneous weapons parts.

“We are making a statement with these engagements,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for Multinational Division Baghdad and the 4th Infantry Division. “Criminals violating the Rule of Law by committing violent acts or with the intent of committing violence will be targeted.”

In eastern Baghdad around 3 a.m., an AWT was conducting an aerial surveillance patrol when the crew saw two criminals with a mortar tube. The AWT engaged them with a Hellfire missile, killed both criminals. The missile also demolished the mortar tube.

The successful operation came on the heels of numerous mortar and rockets attacks that originated from eastern Baghdad the previous two days, military officials said.

“Our primary mission is to protect the Iraqi people from terrorists and criminals,” Stover said. “This we will do in order to enforce the rule of law in full partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

Elsewhere in Iraq yesterday, Operation Saulat al Fursan, or “Charge of the Knights,” began a new phase of operations around Basra.

Phase three of the operation focuses on the criminal militia strongholds within the Hyyaniyah district area. Iraqi Army soldiers of the 1st and 14th infantry divisions are conducting the deliberate clearance operation, military officials said.

The operation began at approximately 6 a.m., when British artillery and U.S. aircraft fired ordnance against known criminal rocket and mortar sites west of Hyyaniyah.

British and American Military Transition Teams are working alongside Iraqi Army units to provide leaders with advice, access to surveillance and the ability to “call for fire” and other support, if needed.

“As with the earlier phases of Operation Charge of the Knights, this remains an Iraqi-led, planned and executed mission,” said Maj. Tom Holloway, the British Army's spokesman in southern Iraq. “Coalition troops are ready to provide support to Iraqi Security Forces as requested and required.”

Operation Charge of the Knights began on March 24.

During a recent reconnaissance patrol in the Jazeera Desert, coalition forces discovered and destroyed two al-Qaeda in Iraq weapons caches.

The caches included more than 125 improvised explosive device components, such as blasting caps, batteries, pressure plates, cordless phone chargers, IED trigger circuits, steel IED canisters, copper plates and springs.

These are the second and third weapons caches troops have found in the Jazeera Desert in less than a month. Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams destroyed both caches.

“We are continuing our efforts to disrupt AQI's networks and degrade their ability to carry out attacks against innocent Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and coalition forces," said Army Col. Bill Buckner, a Multinational Corps Iraq spokesman, referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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