Iraqi Security Forces Take Control of Najaf Province
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2004 About three months after decisive combat operations ended in Iraq's Najaf province, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit commander declared today that Iraqi security forces have formally assumed local control.
Since fighting ended Aug. 28, no major incidents have occurred despite reduced U.S. security operations in the city and the Ramadan holiday period.
With little to no U.S. Marine oversight, Iraqi security forces in Najaf have demonstrated their ability to respond and take control of threats to the province's stability, as well as plan, direct and conduct limited security operations, officials said. Iraqi police and National Guardsmen have conducted several successful raids using intelligence compiled on their own, netting several insurgents and criminals.
Also, officials said, Iraqi border enforcement officials continue to effectively work the borders, stopping several illegal crossings and narcotics trafficking.
U.S. Marines will continue to train and equip Iraqi security forces and conduct a reduced number of security patrols in the city. "We've been working hard with Najaf's governor and security forces to ensure they have the tools and talents needed to stabilize this city," said Col. Anthony M. Haslam, the 11th MEU's commander. "In the past three months, they have demonstrated their ability to keep this province and its citizens safe and secure."
Elsewhere in Iraq, a stepped-up effort to quell insurgent activity in northern Babil province continued for a seventh day Nov. 29. U.S. and Iraqi forces rounded up 14 suspected anti-Iraqi forces and uncovered three arms caches south of Baghdad, officials said.
The Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team, backed by elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, captured four suspects, including two the MEU considers to be high-interest individuals, in a raid near Iskandariyah.
In a separate raid just to the north, the Iraqi Specialized Special Forces and Marines picked up three suspects.
The day's biggest haul came near Yusufiyah, where Marines detained seven suspected insurgents and turned up a large stockpile of ordnance, including 500 artillery fuses, 13 155 mm rounds, 127 82 mm mortar rounds, one 82 mm mortar system, 60 empty crates for 82 mm mortar rounds, one electric blasting cap, 75 meters of detonation cord, two bags of propellant, 12 hand grenades, three AK- 47 assault rifles, four full magazines of 7.62 mm ammunition, and one full magazine of pistol ammunition.
Also near Yusufiyah, Marines discovered a smaller cache of eight 120 mm mortar rounds, 60 120 mm mortar fuses, and one hand grenade, while British forces operating west of the Euphrates River turned up a stockpile of 150 artillery shells.
Iraqi, U.S. and British forces have been conducting raids throughout southern Baghdad and northern Babil province since Nov. 23, when Operation Plymouth Rock kicked off in the town of Jabella, about 50 miles south of the capital.
More than 5,000 Iraqi, U.S. and British forces are participating in the operation, which has so far netted about 195 suspected insurgents.
Also on Nov. 29, U.S. Task Force Danger soldiers captured five anti-Iraqi fighters during raids near Samarra. The five detainees were turned over to Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces for further questioning.
The raids were conducted based on information obtained by Iraqi police, and no multinational forces were injured in the incident.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)