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Operation Spear Begins; Iraqi Farmer Turns In Weapons Cache

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2005 – U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces today began Operation Spear, aimed at rooting out terrorists and foreign fighters and disrupting terror support systems in and around Karabilah, Iraq.

About 1,000 Marines and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, and Iraqi security forces began the operation early this morning in northwestern Anbar province.

Elements from 1st Tank Battalion and 2nd and 4th Assault Amphibian Battalions are participating in the operation, along with coalition aircraft.

In other Iraq news, a local farmer reported, and later delivered, a large weapons cache to Task Force Baghdad soldiers June 16.

The Iraqi called officials from 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and told them of the weapons cache. The farmer then transported the cache to an agreed-upon location and handed it over to the soldiers.

The cache included 400 hand grenades, 45 rocket-propelled grenades, two RPG launchers, and a box of ammunition.

The find is another example of the Iraqi people getting involved in a positive way in their own security, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Merkel, commander of 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment.

"In the past two weeks, we have seen the number of tips on enemy activity given to us from the local Iraqi people skyrocket," Merkel said. "Just as importantly, the information is timelier and more specific than the majority of what we received previously."

In other developments, Iraqi army and Task Force Baghdad soldiers took five terror suspects into custody during a late-night cordon-and-search operation June 15 in Baghdad.

The soldiers also seized bomb-making materials, including six blasting caps, a bag of ball bearings, two Iraqi army uniforms, an old Iraqi army ring, terrorist instructional books and CDs, and $900 in U.S. cash.

Three detainees were primary targets in the mission and are members of a known terrorist cell. The terror suspects are being held for additional questioning.

Elsewhere, Iraqi security forces arrested eight suspected car-bomb manufacturers and seized a nearly completed car bomb, bomb-making materials, and weapons during a cordon-and-search operation in Baghdad June 15. The operation was part of the opening phase of a major, sustained operation involving more than 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. forces -- dubbed Operation Overload.

The nearly-completed car bomb, consisting of eight 125 mm mortar rounds, a remote detonating system and a timer, was found after elements of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade Iraqi Intervention Force and D Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, received a tip from a local resident about a home where car bombs were being produced. Inside the house, Iraqi Special Commandos found more car bomb-making materials, including 10 mortar rounds, 50 pounds of high explosives, 3,000 feet of detonation cord, 20 blasting caps and 10 firing devices.

Earlier in the day, an Iraqi police patrol captured seven terror suspects during a cordon-and-search operation in the Shawra Wa Um Jidir district of northeastern Baghdad. The police also found one RPG launcher, 29 AK-47 assault rifles, four bolt-action rifles, four cases of ammunition, three boxes of mortar fuses and 15 insignia stamps from the former regime.

In north Baghdad, Iraqi army soldiers, acting on a tip from a local citizen, detained four more terror suspects and seized another partially constructed car bomb. The bomb consisted of 20 artillery rounds fused with detonation cord. The soldiers took the four suspects into custody for questioning and impounded the car.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Task Force Baghdad news releases.)

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