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IED Blast Fatal in Baghdad; Iraqis Capture 28 Insurgents

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2004 – A soldier was killed and four others were wounded today when an improvised explosive device detonated in Baghdad.

Military officials in Iraq provided no further information.

In other news from Iraq, Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. Marines and soldiers, captured 28 suspected insurgents in northern Babil province today, as a fresh offensive aimed at dislodging militant leaders south of Baghdad entered its sixth day.

In a late-morning, lightning raid near Mahmudiyah, some 250 Iraqi and U.S. forces swarmed a market believed to be doubling as a front for insurgent activity. The raid netted several local insurgent leaders and raised to 137 the number of suspected militants rounded up throughout the province since Dec. 22.

Despite a recent drop in insurgent activity in the area, the commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which led the operation, said he has no intention of letting local insurgents regroup.

"By staying in the attack, we continue to generate momentum," said Col. Ronald J. Johnson. "We are piecing more and more of the puzzle together. Our intelligence is growing, the connections are emerging, and the Iraqi security forces themselves are playing an increasingly decisive role."

The latest offensive comes one month after a successful nine-day surge involving more than 5,000 U.S., Iraqi and British forces. That operation, dubbed Plymouth Rock in a nod to Thanksgiving, netted more than 200 insurgents and a dozen weapons stockpiles.

Though the long-term impact of recent operations remains to be seen, Marine officials said they are cautiously optimistic that their five-month-old efforts alongside the Iraqi security forces are beginning to pay off. Key arrests of known militants have produced immediate results, as insurgent attacks in the 24th MEU's area of operations fell significantly in December.

Since July, when the 24th MEU assumed operational control of this largely rural region that is home to 1.2 million Iraqis, Marines and the Iraqi security forces they're supporting have rounded up more than 950 suspected insurgents. To date, 645 have been sent to prison.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Multinational Force Iraq
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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