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Coalition Seizes Weapons, Captures 32 Suspects at Mosque

By Staff Sgt. Michelle L. Thomas, USAF
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2004 – Coalition forces led by Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel and Iraqi police seized a weapons cache and detained 32 people at the Umm al Tabul Mosque Jan. 1, said the deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force 7 today.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters during a briefing from Baghdad that intelligence reports confirmed the mosque, in the central part of the city, was a hub for anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi activities, with various cells using it as a meeting place and a weapons cache.

Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, along with coalition forces, surrounded and searched the mosque at about 10 a.m. local time, according to a U.S. Central command report.

About two months before the raid, "the 1st Armored Division received numerous reports from local Iraqis that pointed to the al Tabul mosque as being used for criminal and terrorist activities," said Kimmitt.

He said several detainees may be foreign nationals, based on their dialects, but that confirmation of their nationality and any ties to terrorist activities has not been established.

"Despite the clear use of this mosque for criminal, terrorist and anti- coalition activities, the greatest care was taken by coalition forces to uphold the sanctity of the mosque and use the minimal amount of force necessary to conduct the operation," said Kimmitt.

No casualties occurred during the operation.

Items seized during the search included three packages of TNT, one case of blasting caps, three bags of gunpowder, eight improvised grenades, a roll of detonation cord, improvised explosive device materials such as 9-volt batteries and unidentified propellants, 11 AK-47 assault rifles and 20 AK-47 magazines.

Kimmitt also noted that although engagements against coalition military have averaged 20 a day, "the area of operations remains stable."

"The coalition remains offensively oriented in order to attack, kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people, and to assure the people of Iraq of our determination to ensure a safe and secure environment," said Kimmitt.

(Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Michelle Thomas is on active duty working for DefendAmerica.mil.)

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