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Operation Steel Curtain Continues Through Third Day of Fighting

American Forces Press Service

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2005 – Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers are in the third day of fighting along the Iraq-Syria border in the town of Husaybah, Iraq.

The objectives of Operation Steel Curtain are to restore Iraqi sovereign control along the Iraq-Syrian border and destroy the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating throughout the Qaim region, officials said.

Iraqi army soldiers shot and killed three terrorists dressed in women's clothing near the entrance to the safety zone established for displaced persons. The trio brandished weapons as they neared the checkpoint the Iraqi soldiers were manning, but were unable to use them before being killed by the soldiers. Iraqi soldiers identified the terrorists as foreign fighters. The three terrorists were trying to hide among the women and children and gain access to the area for residents temporarily displaced.

Armed terrorists used a similar tactic at a police checkpoint Nov. 5 in the town of Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad. While the terrorists posed as women, they killed six police officers and wounded many civilians.

Some Husaybah residents have sought safety from the fighting in a vacant housing district in Husaybah, where the Iraqi army soldiers established facilities for residents temporarily displaced by the operation.

"In addition to urban combat operations, the Iraqi army soldiers are supporting humanitarian assistance operations in the western part of the city, providing food and relief supplies for some 800 displaced civilians," Lt. Col. Christopher C. Starling, operations officer for Regimental Combat Team 2, said. "At a checkpoint (Nov. 6) outside the city, residents offered information to Iraqi army soldiers, leading to the capture of individuals and weapons caches."

Small groups of terrorists continue to attack Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines clearing the city. This morning troops found the body of a dead terrorist in a school. The corpse was booby trapped with a hand grenade and set to explode when the body was moved. They also found a fully armed and functional rocket-propelled-grenade launcher in the same classroom.

Officials have noted four incidents of al Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists using mosques and at least one school to launch attacks on Iraqi army soldiers and Marines. Terrorists are using sensitive and critical infrastructure as protection from coalition and Iraqi army counterattacks.

The combined force, 1,000 Iraqi army soldiers, including local Sunni soldiers recruited from the Qaim region, and 2,500 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors are clearing the city house by house, discovering weapons caches, terrorist propaganda and improvised bombs. The arms, munitions, bomb-making material, artillery and mortar shells converted to homemade bombs found in these cache sites continue to validate suspicions that terrorists used Qaim as a safe haven, officials said.

"Iraqi soldiers are fighting side by side with their (U.S.) Marine counterparts in the streets and on the rooftops," Starling said.

Iraqi army units partnered with Marines from Regimental Combat Team 2 will provide a joint presence in Husaybah after the successful clearing of the city, officials said. Previous operations between Iraqi army units integrated with U.S. Marines and soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division have established a persistent joint presence in the cities of Hit, Haditha, Barwana, Haqlaniyah, Sadah, Rawah, Amiriyah and Ferris.

Thirty-six terrorists are confirmed killed during the operation. There are no reports of civilian casualties.

The offensive is part of Operation Hunter, designed to deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in the Euphrates River Valley and to establish a permanent security presence along the Syrian border.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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