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Coalition Continues to Prepare Iraq for Sovereignty

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2004 – Iraqi and coalition security forces continue joint operations to establish a stable Iraq, repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and pass sovereignty to the people of Iraq, said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt during a news conference in Baghdad today.

Kimmitt, the deputy operations chief for Multinational Force Iraq, said that in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,792 patrols and 14 offensive operations, flew 50 Air Force and Navy sorties and released 33 detainees.

"The next release at Abu Ghraib is scheduled for June 28 and 29, when an estimated 250 detainees will be released," the general noted.

Iraq's defense minister and armed forces this week took possession of 82 military trucks, 24 passenger buses, 170 commercial transports, 500 AK-47 assault rifles, 54,000 rounds of ammunition and 57,000 sets of body armor. This is part of the continuing effort to equip and outfit Iraqi security forces, Kimmitt said.

He also noted that 40 officers graduated from the emergency response unit training course. "This is part of ongoing efforts to create a 250-man Iraqi police service rapid response unit trained for national law enforcement emergencies," he explained.

The coalition is helping government agencies in Mosul to repair areas of the city damaged when in June 24 insurgent attacks, the general said.

Kimmitt was referring to suicide bombings in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, that killed 62 people and wounded 220, according to a senior coalition military official. Three U.S. soldiers were among those killed in bold assaults on Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and the mainly Sunni Muslim cities of Baqubah, Fallujah and Ramadi.

He said Iraq's culture and media minister was believed to be the target of a remotely detonated car bomb today. "Two men pulled up behind the minister's vehicle while it was waiting at a traffic light," Kimmitt explained. "The two men exited the vehicle, walked several yards away, and then remotely detonated the vehicle, which contained an estimated 100 sticks of dynamite.

"The explosion resulted in one killed and 17 persons wounded," the general noted. "The minister and other wounded personnel have been taken to a hospital for X-rays and medical attention." Kimmitt said Iraqi police caught one of the men involved in the incident.

Baqubah was the site of a number of incidents today, the general said. "Coalition forces were engaged by five to six enemy personnel in east Baqubah early this morning with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire," he said. "At 9:15 a.m., four anti-Iraqi forces attacked a government building and were killed by members of the Islamic party who work there. One of the insurgents killed had TNT strapped to his body," the general noted.

An unknown number of anti-Iraqi forces launched another rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms attack at 10:11 a.m., at a police station in downtown Baqubah near the Golden Lady statue, Kimmitt said. "Security forces responded and established blocking positions in the vicinity of the twin bridges," he continued. A few minutes later, a group of 15 to 20 personnel was spotted at that police station in Baqubah. Iraqi police killed two of them, Kimmitt added.

At 12:40 p.m., coalition forces noticed a suspicious car containing three RPG warheads and conducted a controlled detonation of the car, he said. "They ascertained that it had been rigged as a car bomb," the general said.

"Six insurgents were killed in all engagements, with no injuries to Iraqi security forces or coalition forces," Kimmitt said.

Turning to activities in Baghdad, Kimmitt said a coalition patrol was attacked with an RPG, resulting in one coalition soldier killed and a vehicle being set on fire. "A quick reaction force reported killing two insurgents," Kimmitt said.

A coalition convoy in the western zone of operations reported being engaged by small-arms and mortar fire at the cloverleaf checkpoint just east of Fallujah, the scene of the June 24 attacks, Kimmitt reported. "Coalition close air support engaged the enemy and reported two enemy killed in action," he said. "No friendly casualties or damage to equipment were reported."

An improvised explosive device was detonated against the coalition patrol in the southeastern zone the evening of June 25, resulting in two coalition personnel wounded. They were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment, the general said.

Kimmitt said coalition forces continue efforts to capture or kill fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. His network, which reportedly has ties with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the June 24 wave of attacks across Iraq that killed about 100 people, including three U.S. soldiers, and injured more than 300, including 12 Americans. In those attacks, insurgents hit targets in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul Baqubah and Ramadi.

Kimmitt said the coalition's June 25 air attack on a known Zarqawi safe house in southeastern Fallujah was based on multiple confirmations of Iraqi and coalition intelligence. "This operation employed precision weapons to target and destroy the safe house," Kimmitt noted. "This underscores the coalition's continuing resolve in partnership with the Iraqi security forces to defeat terrorist networks within Iraq. Wherever and whenever we find elements of the Zarqawi network, we will destroy them."

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