Coalition, Iraq Cooperation Foiling Insurgents
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 18, 2005 Progress in capturing suspected terrorists and foiling their operations continues, with Iraqi security forces playing an increasing role and Iraqi citizens coming forward with valuable intelligence, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported today.
Iraqi police working with Task Force Baghdad soldiers captured 13 terror suspects and confiscated a variety of weapons during a search of a mosque in the Mahmudiyah district, south of Baghdad, May 17, officials said.
A patrol from 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, saw two men exiting the mosque carrying two RPK machine guns, three AK-47 assault rifles, and one pistol. Officials said the soldiers detained the two men, secured the immediate area around the mosque, and contacted the Iraqi police, who entered and searched the mosque.
In the mosque, Iraqi police detained another 11 suspects and found one 82 mm mortar system, a hand grenade, 500 rounds of assault rifle ammunition, and large amounts of terrorist propaganda, officials said.
"The insurgents think they can hide from the Americans by seeking illegal refuge in holy places," said Army Maj. Web Wright, a Task Force Baghdad spokesman. "The Iraqi security forces are not going to put up with this. They will hunt the terrorists down no matter where they are hiding and put them in jail."
Also in Baghdad, Iraqi citizens prevented a potentially devastating attack by alerting Iraqi police to a vehicle-bomb threat near a crowded marketplace May 16.
Local nationals thought something was suspicious about a vehicle parked on the side of a road next to a densely populated market area in Zafaraniya, a suburb of Baghdad, and alerted local police, who responded immediately, officials said.
Police officers secured the area, but the bomb exploded before an Iraqi police explosive ordnance disposal team arrived on the scene to detonate it. No injuries were reported.
"Extensive loss of life and property damage was averted due to the teamwork of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi police on site," said Army Lt. Col. Steven Merkel, commander of 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Following the explosion, the explosive ordnance disposal team discovered another vehicle bomb nearby. After cordoning off the area, officials said, the team safely detonated the bomb.
"This is one of those days that reaffirms the confidence that we all share in the fact that the Iraqi people will not accept failure. They are on the road to democracy, and will not fail to meet the tough challenges ahead," Merkel said.
In related news, 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division extended its area of responsibility this week, taking over security for a larger part of northwest and north-central Baghdad.
"This was a transfer of authority of two large districts in the capitol city of Baghdad from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division to the Iraqi army," said U.S. Army Col. David Bishop, commander of 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
"We have looked forward to expanding our operation and our work," said Iraqi Lt. Col. Karben Qussay, commander of the 1st Battalion., which is based in the Adamiya section of Baghdad. "We have the full ability to expand our area of operations."
The battalion's sector now includes about one fourth of Baghdad, according to Qussay.
"There are seven zones in the area of Adamiya, and when I came here in January, we controlled five of those seven zones," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jim Blackburn, commander of the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is responsible for training the Iraqi 1st Battalion. "Now, the 1st Battalion controls all seven."
The turnover of security operations occurred based on the performance of the Iraqi troops policing their own neighborhoods. Blackburn said the 1st Battalion has shown "an excellent display of leadership and technical capabilities."
The transition in northwest Baghdad will continue as Iraqi security forces assume greater control of the security of their own country. "One day, Baghdad will be controlled totally by the Iraqi security forces," Kerry said.
Qussay said he is ready for that day to come. "We are ready to be responsible for more," he said.
Also May 17, an Italian Joint Task Force patrol discovered a weapons cache near Sooq Ash Shuyookh, in Dhi Qar province. The cache contained roughly 450 pounds of explosives, 130 mm rockets, 150 fuses, and anti-tank mines. An EOD team investigated the find and destroyed the cache in place.
In north and west Baghdad, Task Force Baghdad soldiers stormed through terrorist safe houses May 16, conducting four early-morning raids and capturing 10 terror suspects.
Seven of the detainees are thought to be involved in car-bomb attacks against Iraqi civilians and multinational forces and three others of participating in attacks against coalition forces, official said. All 10 suspects were taken into custody for questioning.
"There are more Iraqis in security positions than there are Americans guarding Iraq," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a Task Force Baghdad spokesman. "This improves the quality and accuracy of our intelligence, and that's why we're catching these terrorists and disrupting their plans."
Also in Iraq, alert AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilots from the 3rd Infantry Division's Aviation Brigade disrupted a potential terrorist attack about 15 miles southwest of Baghdad May 15, officials reported.
The pilots, from Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance), spotted an improvised rocket launcher while providing security to ground forces from the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Officials said soldiers on the ground approached the site and determined that the rocket launcher was not loaded, but they found ammunition located next to it.
"We were fortunate to locate a launcher that was going to be used against our troops or the Iraqi army and prevent that from happening," said Army Maj. Mike Musiol, the aviation battalion's executive officer. "We'll continue to make every effort to be in the correct place at the critical time and influence the outcome of each engagement."
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Task Force Baghdad news releases.)