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Gunships Nail Suspected Foreign-Fighter Safe House in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2005 – U.S. helicopter gunships fired on a suspected foreign-fighter safe house north of the Euphrates River near Husaybah early today, military officials in Iraq reported.

The helicopters were supporting coalition forces that had come under small-arms fire from two buildings during an early morning raid. The air strikes hit a weapons cache, which caused "large secondary explosions," officials said.

Coalition forces detained eight suspected terrorists for questioning. Officials said coalition forces suffered no casualties or equipment damage . Fifteen civilians were injured today when a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was detonated outside an entrance to Baghdad International Airport, U.S. officials in Baghdad said. Terrorists attacked the entry point to the airport with small-arms fire immediately after the explosion, but officials said no coalition forces were injured in the attack.

Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, brought in 18 people suspected of having ties to terrorist activities during combat operations May 31.

Iraqi soldiers participating in Operation Cobra Lightning II seized one AK-47 assault rifle, eight gas masks and 10 full magazines of ammunition. The operation is aimed at ridding the Baghdad areas of its main terrorist cells. "The Iraqi army captured every single one of the targets that were brought in," said Army Maj. David Gooch, plans officer for the 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Louisiana Army National Guard. "This operation shows that they can certainly defend this area - they proved that in the last 12 hours." Iraqis living in the area seemed pleased to see their own forces taking the lead in the push to take terrorists off the streets, according to Gooch.

"They took commands from the Iraqi army and seemed to appreciate the fact that their own soldiers were out there doing it, as opposed to coalition forces coming in," Gooch said. "Not just in the events of last night, but when the sun came up you could see they were capable and that the entire neighborhood was happy to see the Iraqi soldiers doing the exact same thing we've been doing for the last three years in this country."

An Iraqi citizen's tip led Task Force Baghdad soldiers to a weapons cache in the Kanun district of east Baghdad on May 31. When the soldiers followed up on the Iraqi's tip, they found nine anti-personnel mines that appeared to be in their original packaging. An explosives ordnance team was called to the site to dispose of the munitions.

In western Baghdad, another Iraqi citizen approached a patrol of Task Force Baghdad soldiers to tell them about a roadside bomb. The local national led the soldiers to a red wire running across a road. The patrol secured the area to keep residents away from the bomb and called in a team of explosives experts, which discovered a land mine with multiple wires attached to a cell phone detonator.

"The majority of Iraqis do not support the insurgency," said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, Task Force Baghdad spokesman. "Most Iraqis are fed up with terrorists. They just want to get on with their lives and give the new Iraqi government a chance to work. The terrorists' efforts to intimidate Iraqis are failing."

In combat operations, Iraqi security forces from the 3rd Public Order Battalion captured 21 terror suspects while conducting a sweep between the Tigris River and a major highway in southeastern Baghdad.

Later on May 31, Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, noticed three suspicious men conducting surveillance on their patrol in western Baghdad. When the Iraqi soldiers approached the men, they ran into a nearby store, where the soldiers search turned up a specifically targeted terror suspect in hiding. The soldiers also detained 10 other terror suspects in the store and took them into custody for questioning. On May 30, a joint patrol of Iraqi army soldiers and coalition forces arrested 80 terror suspects in operations all over Baghdad.

Officials said Iraqi soldiers led the largest operation of the day, conducting a series of raids and house searches around midnight in the southwest Baghdad district of Jihad. They captured 47 suspected terrorists and took them into custody for questioning.

"Throughout Baghdad, Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in these types of operations," Kent said. "Today there are more Iraqis in security positions than there are Americans guarding Baghdad. They're shouldering more and more of the responsibility for achieving stability and security in Baghdad."

Later in the day, Task Force Baghdad soldiers seized 19 more terror suspects during three early-morning raids on targets in and around the Ameriyah district of central Baghdad.

In another large operation, soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, from Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Air Field, Ga., raided a safe house thought to harbor members of a terror cell in the Karradah district. Less than an hour later, 12 suspected terrorists were rounded up and taken into custody for questioning.

Also on May 30, a Task Force Baghdad patrol stopped a suspicious local vehicle with two occupants in northwestern Baghdad. When the soldiers searched the vehicle, they found three pipe bombs and two pistols. The soldiers seized the weapons and arrested the two men.

Five minutes later in eastern Baghdad, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, found a weapons cache containing 20 mines and 100 blasting caps. An explosive ordnance team was called to the site to dispose of the munitions.

Soldiers from Louisiana's 256th "Tiger" Brigade Combat Team rounded up four suspected terrorists in a series of raids beginning around midnight on May 30.

Officials found out that one of the men worked in Saddam Hussein's secret service under the old regime and is believed to be a major financier of several terrorist groups in the Ghazaliyah district of western Baghdad. He's also thought to be a cameraman for a terrorist group.

Soldiers from Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Louisiana Army National Guard, captured the suspected terrorists.

Earlier, a middle-of-the-night raid conducted by soldiers from Task Force 1st Battalion of the 156th netted another targeted member of an Abu Younes terrorist cell.

In other combat operations, U.S. soldiers arrested two more terror suspects during a cordon-and-search operation at the home of a suspected leader of an insurgent battalion.

The soldiers seriously wounded one terrorist during a firefight. They took the suspected terror cell leader into custody for questioning. The wounded man was taken to a military medical treatment center.

"We are picking up a lot of bad guys daily, which gives the Iraqi people more hope each day," said Maj. Christopher Cerniauskas, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment plans officer. "Every day, these brave people approach Iraqi and coalition force patrols with more and more valuable information."

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

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