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Phantom Phoenix Produces Promising Results in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2008 – Multinational Corps Iraq soldiers and Iraqi forces have discovered scores of weapons and explosives, detained six suspects, and destroyed booby-trapped homes in Iraq this month in coordinated offensives.

Operation Phantom Phoenix, a series of coordinated assaults focused on pursuing al Qaeda and clearing terrorist safe havens, is the latest in a series of combat operations.

A division-level operation in support of Operation Phantom Phoenix -- known as Operation Iron Harvest -- continues to pursue al Qaeda across four provinces of northern Iraq, military officials reported today.

Within the first week of the operation, coalition and Iraqi forces detained 193 suspected extremists, killed 60 others and found 79 weapons caches. The caches contained more than 10,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 2,000 heavy machine gun rounds, 4,000 pounds of homemade explosives, 300 pounds of TNT, and about 100 improvised explosive devices in various stages of construction.

Extremists’ ability to conduct attacks is reduced with every weapons cache that combined forces discover, military officials said. Seizing 4,000 pounds of homemade explosives prevented the enemy from building eight massive vehicle bombs similar to those that have destroyed Iraqi infrastructure and killed innocent civilians, officials said.

Army Col. John Lehr, commander of the brigade leading the efforts in Diyala province, expressed gratitude that soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, have been integrated into the operation. “Upon joining us, they immediately discovered a major cache system, which will lead to other cache systems and the capture of other terrorists,” Lehr, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, said.

In one particular find in the “breadbasket” area of Diyala, combined forces uncovered a weapons cache in an underground bunker complex with several rooms.

“The 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, made this latest find possible. They are making great headway against the enemy,” said Army Brig. Gen. James Boozer, deputy commander of Task Force Iron. “Their ability to turn human intelligence is significant because of the relationships they have made with the population in this short amount of time.”

During Operation Raider Harvest, another division-level operation of Operation Phantom Phoenix, coalition forces discovered a weapons cache site and underground bunker system inside a dense palm grove near Esalwid on Jan. 12.

Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, found the 70-meter complex, which included separate buildings for sleeping, storing food and constructing improvised explosive devices, as well as two underground living bunkers. At the site, troops discovered numerous weapons and explosives, including various munitions, small arms, more than 10 IED cases along with other material for making IEDs, and various ammunition and military gear.

Coalition forces also found several log books containing information about al Qaeda in Iraq members and their assigned weapons, and a map of IED locations. Troops discovered a power line leading to the site that traced back to the home of a nearby villager, whom they detained along with five of his military-age-male family members, military officials said.

During Operation Raider Harvest on Jan. 11, Multinational Division North soldiers destroyed three booby-trapped houses in Himbus. Local Iraqis told soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, the location of the buildings being used by al Qaeda in Iraq. Troops inspected the buildings and identified them as booby-trapped, with two of the buildings containing explosives and copper wire leading to all the doors. The explosives were arranged to collapse the buildings. The third building was in the process of being prepared when troops discovered it.

An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed all three buildings in a controlled detonation.

Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, discovered a large cache while on patrol in the Mansour district of Baghdad on Jan. 11 in support of Operation Phantom Phoenix.

The troops discovered more than 1,800 items in the cache. The stockpile included 1,000 blasting caps, 100 feet of detonation cord, machine guns, 70 mortars, 316 hand grenades, preassembled improvised explosive devices, and 850 pounds of bulk explosives.

In a separate incident Jan. 11, concerned local citizens located six 107 mm mortar rounds in Ghazaliyah. The citizens immediately contacted troops from the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, to assess the situation.

“Coalition and Iraqi security forces continue to thwart the activity of insurgents who wish to bring harm to the citizens of Iraq,” said Army Maj. Jose F. Garcia, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

An explosive ordnance detachment destroyed the cache and the mortars. No injuries or damages came from either incident, both of which are under investigation.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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