Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Offensive in Iraq Continues

The Times reports a very encouraging story (despite the unfortunate news about the American contractor kidnapped by insurgents) about a recent Iraqi forces-led raid that netted 65 bad guys:

Hundreds of Iraqi troops and commandos backed by American soldiers swept through central and southern Baghdad early Monday morning, capturing at least 65 suspected insurgents in one of the largest raids in the capital since the fall of Saddam Hussein, military officials said.

The raid, which began at 3 a.m. and lasted more than six hours, disrupted three insurgent networks, American military officials said. They said those captured included men suspected of assassinations, beheadings, kidnappings and attacks on Iraqi and American forces. One group was planning attacks on the new National Assembly, said Maj. Gen. Mudher Moula Aboud, an Iraqi Army commander.

In the raid, more than 500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers cordoned off areas in some of Baghdad's most dangerous and crime-ridden areas, searching from house to house in more than 90 locations with American troops playing a supporting role, United States military officials said. One of the men captured was reported to have been injured. The raid was the latest of several large-scale operations led by Iraqi forces in recent weeks.

In the Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough documents al Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "close call" with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force:

Abu Musab Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, is on the run in an undeveloped western border region where he was nearly caught in recent weeks, a U.S. Marine commander says. "He's going from brush pile to brush pile just like a wet rat," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, whose 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is back home at Camp Pendleton, Calif., after months of intense combat in Anbar province. "I believe he possibly slid back into the Anbar area, possibly the hinterlands."

Gen. Sattler, who commanded operations in the region, said in an interview with The Washington Times that the U.S.-led coalition has forced Zarqawi to work "independently" by killing or capturing his first- and second-string lieutenants. Zarqawi fled the Anbar region before his base in Fallujah was captured by a Marine-Army force in November. He operated in northern Iraq until he was pressed back to western Iraq, but this time in isolated frontier country.

"He can't use cell phones," Gen. Sattler said of the Jordanian-born terrorist, whose capture promises a $25 million reward. "He can't use any type of Internet. He doesn't know who he can trust."

Gen. Sattler disclosed in the interview that his Marines and special operations troops came within a whisker of capturing the terror master "within the last six weeks" in western Iraq. While guarded on details, Gen. Sattler said that only poor visibility in bad weather allowed Zarqawi to escape. "The elements worked to his advantage," the three-star general said.

Lastly, SecDef Rumsfeld is in Iraq today, on a surprise visit meeting with new Iraqi leadership and his top military brass, the AP reports.


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