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Coalition Gives Details on Terrorist's Death, Updates Ops

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2004 – Coalition officials this morning gave more details about the death of Abu Mohammed Hamza, a terrorist bomb expert for al Qaeda ally Abu Musab Zarkawi.

Hamza was killed Feb. 19 near Habbaniya, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. Officials only revealed the incident yesterday.

An armored platoon chanced on Hamza's bomb-making den during a civil affairs mission. Officials said that when the soldiers knocked on the door, someone inside opened fire, wounding a soldier. The soldiers returned fire and killed Hamza. In addition to killing the terrorist, the soldiers with the help of Iraqi police arrested three other Iraqis in a neighboring house.

Military spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the soldiers found a variety of explosives in the dwelling. Kimmitt and coalition spokesman Dan Senor briefed in Baghdad today. The soldiers found a suicide vest containing plastic explosive, ball bearings, blasting caps, a trigger device and a hand grenade.

The soldiers also discovered an improvised explosive device containing plastic explosives and a number of suitcases with wires, batteries, and other items used to trigger explosive devices.

"Outside the house were found some barrels of sodium nitrate, some crates with some Soviet Cyrillic writing on the side, some more bags of sodium nitrate, and other items unknown," Kimmitt said. "Samples have been taken by our explosive- ordnance detachments, and they're being analyzed at this time."

Overall in Iraq the situation remained relatively stable, Kimmitt said. "Over the past week there have been an average of 18 engagements daily against coalition military, five attacks daily against Iraqi security forces and just under three attacks daily against Iraqi civilians," he said.

Coalition troops including Iraqi police and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps continue to take the fight to the enemy. In the last day, the coalition conducted 1,434 patrols, 25 offensive operations, and 19 raids, and captured 77 anti-coalition suspects.

Enemy forces continue to target Iraqi security forces. In Mosul, two Iraqi policemen were shot while they visited a restaurant. "Both officers were wounded and taken to a local hospital for treatment," Kimmitt said. There was also a drive-by shooting at the Iraqi Civil Defense headquarters in central Mosul. Two Iraqis were slightly wounded and are being treated at a local hospital.

In the north-central zone of operations the heart of anti-coalition activity coalition forces conducted a raid near Baqubah and captured a bomb maker and 11 other suspect individuals.

In Baghdad, coalition forces captured an anti-coalition financier and seven other individuals.

An OH-58 Kiowa helicopter crashed into the Euphrates river near Hadithah. Troopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have secured the area. Kimmitt confirmed two deaths, but could not say whether the chopper crashed as a result of enemy fire. "The sister ship escorting the aircraft did not observe enemy fire, and an investigation is under way to determine the cause of the accident," he said.

Also in the west, coalition forces conducted simultaneous cordon and searches of four objectives near Fallujah to kill or capture three anti-coalition personnel. "The operation was conducted without incident and resulted in the capture of eight enemy personnel, including the targets," Kimmitt said.

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