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Marines Welcome Arrival of British 'Black Watch' Regiment

American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Nov. 1, 2004 – A British armored battle group of about 850 soldiers, led by the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch Regiment, has deployed from Basra, Iraq, to an area south of Baghdad to bolster U.S. and Iraqi forces hunting down insurgents.

The move comes amid mounting efforts by multinational forces supporting the interim Iraqi government to root out anti-Iraqi forces bent on creating chaos and disrupting national elections in January.

The Black Watch has taken up positions in northern Babil province, where the U.S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been operating since July.

Led by Lt. Col. James Cowan, the British troops are highly trained and well equipped, U.S. military officials said. Reinforcing the Black Watch will be a reconnaissance unit from the Queen's Dragoon Guards, a light-infantry unit from the Royal Marines, and a host of support personnel, including engineers, logisticians and medics.

Also assigned to the MEU are the Chicago-based 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and some U.S. Army and Navy detachments.

The beefed-up MEU has worked closely with Iraqi security forces, including the 2nd Ministry of the Interior Commando Battalion, the 507th Iraqi National Guard Battalion, elements of the Iraqi Specialized Special Forces, and an Iraqi special weapons and tactics or SWAT -- team to stamp out the insurgency in northern Babil and southern Baghdad.

They stepped up their joint efforts earlier this month. On Oct. 5, Iraqi forces and U.S. Marines launched their most sweeping operation to date, U.S. military officials said, moving against numerous targets throughout their zone in a continuing campaign to restore security and stability to the province's nearly 1 million citizens.

In the past three months, more than 500 insurgents have been rounded up in scores of raids, cordon-and-knock searches, and citywide sweeps throughout the area's key population centers, including Lutafiyah, Mahmudiyah, Yusufiyah, Iskandariyah, Haswah and Musayyib.

With the addition of the Black Watch and the steady addition of newly trained Iraqi forces, an increasingly potent force is set to intensify its operations further, a spokesman said.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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