- American troops have killed about 100 insurgents in the
first 48 hours of a large-scale offensive against the hideouts of foreign
militants and arms smuggling routes in a remote border area of western
Iraq, the US army said yesterday.
- The operation involved marines, sailors and soldiers
backed by US air support. A US military spokesman told the Associated Press
the operation began overnight on Saturday in the town of Qaim, near the
border with Syria about 200 miles west of Bagh dad. At least three marines
had also been killed.
- A correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, embedded with
US forces in the area, reported that more than 1,000 US soldiers supported
by jet fighters and helicopter gunships had swept through villages on the
edge of the city of Obeidi, near the Syrian border, on Sunday.
- About 1,000 marines, sailors and soldiers from Regimental
Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division were participating in the offensive
- expected to last several days - in an area along the Euphrates river
in the Jazirah desert, said Captain Jeffrey Pool, a marines
- In the last month, US and Iraqi forces have intensified
operations against suspected militant bases in Iraq, particularly those
along the porous Syrian border, where foreign fighters are believed to
be entering Iraq to join the insurgency.
- US Colonel Bob Chase said the operation to "capture
and kill anti-Iraqi forces" began on Saturday in a desert region of
the restive Anbar province, north of the Euphrates.
- "Anti-Iraqi forces" is the catch-all name used
by the US military to describe insurgents in Iraq.
- The offensive had been inspired by "significant
intelligence" from "brave" local Iraqis, said Col Chase.
Most of the militants were foreign fighters, he added.
- "They [the militants] have sanctuaries mostly along
the Syria border where there are a series of points of entry and a series
of supply lines to bring across illicit foreign weapons and foreign
- The announcement of the offensive came as US forces and
Iraqi authorities tried to wrest the propaganda initiative from insurgents
who have unleashed a wave of attacks in Iraqi cities in an attempt to
the government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, which took office last month.
- More than 300 Iraqis have been killed during the recent
surge of violence. In April, some 135 car bombs exploded - up from 69 in
March - the largest monthly figure in the two years since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
- Yesterday at least four people were killed and eight
wounded when a suicide car bomb was detonated at a police checkpoint in
southern Baghdad. A Japanese security contractor was also taken hostage
after a convoy of foreigners and Iraqi troops was ambushed in western
- The Ansar al-Sunnah army identified the Japanese hostage
as Akihito Saito, 44, and posted a photocopy of his passport, including
his picture, on the group's official website. A spokesman for the
Hart security company, which employs Mr Saito, said he and several other
employees were missing following an attack on Sunday in a remote part of
- Lethal attacks on Iraq's fledgling security forces are
now commonplace, but Iraqi officials said the casualty figures did not
appear to be affecting the enlistment rate.
- "There are now, for the first time, more Iraqi
forces than US-led forces in Iraq, and the number is growing," a
ministry official in Baghdad said. But he acknowledged that it would be
some time before they were able to stand on their own.
- Establishing an effective domestic security force is
crucial to the US exit strategy from Iraq.
- Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, said the insurgents
could not sustain the car bombings at their present level.
- "These last acts in which car bombings have
are evidence of weakness," he said.
- "The overall number of terror attacks has fallen
sharply," he told Reuters in Amman, Jordan, while on his first state
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