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U.S., British, Iraqi Forces Nab Insurgent Suspects South of Baghdad

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2004 – Iraqi, U.S. and British forces rounded up 81 suspected insurgents near Yusufiyah, Iraq, Nov. 25, continuing a three-day-old offensive aimed at restoring security and stability to northern Babil province.

In a series of early-morning operations, the Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics -- or SWAT -- team, elements of the U.S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the 1st Battalion of Britain's Black Watch Regiment descended on a number of targets in a restive area southwest of Baghdad.

Black Watch troops detained 26 suspects, while Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines captured 43. Elsewhere in the MEU's area of operations, Marines captured an additional 12 men in connection with anti-Iraqi activity.

Operation Plymouth Rock, launched Nov. 23 with multiple raids in the south- central town of Jabella, is an intensification of efforts under way since August.

Far different from the recent assault into Fallujah, where determined resistance was expected and crushed, the campaign south of Baghdad calls for a different approach. Anti-Iraqi forces there have sought to avoid large, decisive engagements, preferring to hit, run and evade.

Over the past four months, Iraqi security forces and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have pursued both foot soldiers -- those who plant roadside bombs and lob mortars and rockets, often for money -- and local militant leaders. Success typically comes one or two insurgents at a time.

Patience and persistence are key to a successful counter-insurgency, noted the MEU commander, Col. Ron Johnson, who vowed to stay in the attack.

"Time is on our side, not the enemy's," Johnson said. "With each operation, the (Iraqi security forces) get stronger and the day the Iraqi people are in full control of their destiny draws nearer."

Those detained Nov. 25 boosted to 116 the number of suspected insurgents captured since the latest operation began.

In other Iraq news, on Nov. 24 Iraqi security forces supported by U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division discovered the largest weapons cache to date in the city of Fallujah. It was found in and around the Sa'ad Abi Bin Waqas Mosque in the Hey Al Shorta district.

Abdulla Janabi, a cleric considered a guerilla leader, was known to use this mosque to preach anti-coalition rhetoric. The complex had also been suspected to be a safe house and logistics node for insurgents and their activities.

In the mosque's compound, Iraqi security forces and Marines also discovered a vendor truck that contained various explosive compounds, rocket-propelled grenades, grenades, mortar rounds, and rockets, as well as miscellaneous improvised explosive device-making materials. Initial assessments indicate the truck may have been a mobile IED factory.

The mosque itself is a multi-building complex that is situated within a larger compound and surrounded by a 10-foot-high concrete wall.

The main prayer building, a three-story ornate structure, was heavily laden with small arms, artillery shells, heavy machine guns, and anti-tank mines. Other buildings within the compound had mortar systems, rocket-propelled grenades, launchers, recoilless rifles, and parts of surface-to-air weapons systems. Marines also found the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun outside one of the buildings.

Inside the rectory, Iraqi and U.S. forces found documents that detailed insurgent interrogations of recent kidnap victims, as well as a rifle and a box of ammunition. Just outside the rectory door, they found a large bag of rockets. In a small shed adjacent to the rectory, used to house the mosque's air-conditioning unit, Marines found a room packed with ordnance and weapons that had been rigged to explode.

The insurgents have used mosques as safe havens and took advantage of Multinational Force Iraq's respect for these sites. Mosques are granted protected status unless they are being used for militant purposes. Many mosques in Fallujah lost their protected status as places of religious worship when insurgents fired from minarets at multinational forces.

In Tikrit, an Iraqi citizen provided information that helped Task Force Danger soldiers and Iraqi police capture one individual during a raid near Khanaqin at 2:40 p.m., Nov. 24.

The soldiers assisted Iraqi police with the search of a residence where a man was detained and several weapons were found. The detainee was found with one RPK Soviet light machine gun, 70 RPK rounds, six grenades, four anti-personnel mines, 30 rocket-propelled-grenade propellants, and two AK-47 rifle magazines in his possession.

The detainee and weapons were transported to Multinational Force facilities. No coalition soldiers were injured in the incident.

(Information compiled from Multinational Force Iraq press releases.)

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Multinational Force Iraq
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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