‘Phantom Phoenix’ Operation Targets al Qaeda in Iraq
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2008 U.S. and Iraqi forces today launched Operation Phantom Phoenix, a joint offensive designed to corral remaining al Qaeda-aligned terrorists and other insurgents in Iraq, according to a senior military official.
Iraqi and coalition division- and brigade-level security forces will work in tandem to pursue and neutralize remaining al Qaeda in Iraq operatives and other extremists, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq. Phantom Phoenix will employ lethal and nonlethal tactics to exploit recent security gains and disrupt terrorist support zones and their command and control systems, he said.
“Working closely with the Iraqi security forces, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary,” Odierno explained. “Iraqi citizens continue to reject extremist elements. We are determined not to allow these brutal elements to have respite anywhere in Iraq.”
The Iraqi people have played and will continue to play an important role by standing up against terrorist elements, the general said.
“Iraqis are not passively allowing extremists to conduct their criminal activities,” Odierno said. “We are continuing to see citizens joining concerned local citizen groups, provide tips for criminals and weapons and ammunition caches, and cooperate with the government of Iraq. This is another step aimed at providing Iraqis long-term sustainable security.”
Non-lethal elements of the operation include delivery of essential services, economic development and local governance capacity.
Also today, coalition forces in Iraq captured a suspected terrorist leader and detained three other suspects during other operations to disrupt criminal networks in the Baghdad area.
The detained terrorist leader reportedly facilitated the murder and kidnapping of local Iraqis and also is implicated in attacks on coalition forces.
Coalition forces continue to welcome the cease-fire pledge issued by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on behalf of militias loyal to him, Navy Cmdr. Scott Rye, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said. “However, coalition forces will take the necessary action against criminals who do not abide by Sadr’s pledge of honor,” he added.
In other Iraq operations conducted today and yesterday, coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained 28 suspects while targeting al Qaeda in Iraq networks in central and northern Iraq:
-- East of Mahmudiyah, coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained six others during an operation targeting al Qaeda operatives in Arab Jabour. Coalition forces also discovered three machine guns and military-style assault vests.
-- In Baghdad, coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be an associate of the al Qaeda in Iraq propaganda network. Two other suspected terrorists also were detained.
-- North of Manusuriyah, coalition forces detained five more suspects while targeting associates of the al Qaeda in Iraq network operating in the northeast Diyala River Valley area. As the ground force cleared the area, they discovered numerous machine guns, military-style assault vests and grenades, which were safely destroyed on site.
-- Coalition forces detained 14 suspects in Baghdad and Mosul while targeting al Qaeda in Iraq media networks and assassination operations.
“The barbaric nature of al Qaeda and their Taliban ideology is being rejected by the Iraqi people,” said Navy Capt. Vic Beck, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. “Iraqi and coalition forces will continue to close ranks against these terrorists, disrupting their networks and forcing them out of their safe havens and operating bases.”
In other Iraq operations:
-- Iraqi forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, detained six alleged al Qaeda in Iraq members and two additional suspects in two separate operations Jan. 6.
-- An Iraqi unit detained six suspected al Qaeda members involved in the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilians. The detainees also are linked to roadside-bomb attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces operating in Tarmiyah and Taji.
-- A cordon-and-search operation in Mashraf yielded two more detainees linked to terrorist activities in Mosul. A machine gun with ammunition, two AK-47 rifles, grenades, four mortars, a pistol, a tactical vest and a list of possible terrorists were confiscated during the operation.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)