Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reports: Fierce fighting in Iraq; Baqubah residents can't flee; 'Former' insurgents clearing neighborhoods of opponents; Civilian casualties unknown

Above: Stryker brigade soldiers fighting in Baqubah in April.

Troops fan out north of Baghdad

About 10,000 soldiers are involved in Arrowhead Ripper, making it one of the largest military operations since the war began more than four years ago. It is focused around the city of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. The area has become a key stronghold for al- Qaida in Iraq, and a transit point for money, weapons and munitions from Iran, U.S. officials say.

The offensive began under cover of darkness “with a quickstrike nighttime air assault,” a U.S. military statement said.

Lt. Col. Joseph Davidson, executive officer of the 2nd Infantry Division, said in a telephone interview that about 4,000 U.S. combat forces began flushing out insurgents in the western area of Baqouba, where there was an “entrenched population” of al-Qaida fighters.

Davidson said that about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and police were expected to take part in the offensive and that U.S. forces also were partnering with Sunnis from the 1920 Revolution Brigades, which includes former members of ousted President Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army.

Read the rest at the Buffalo News

U.S. troops in Iraq go on the offensive

Thousands of U.S. troops swept into the northern and southern beltlands of Baghdad on Wednesday in simultaneous operations against militants that the military said was the start of a "summer of hard fighting" in Iraq...

Thirty militants have been killed so far and large quantities of weapons seized, the military said.

South of the capital, soldiers, including airborne troops in Chinook helicopters, killed four suspected insurgents, detained 62, seized 10 weapons caches and destroyed 17 boats, disrupting militant operations on the Tigris River, the U.S. military said.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

Thirty killed in US onslaught in Iraq

Helicopters whizzed over Baquba as armoured vehicles pushed through the pockmarked streets in the largest single assault since US forces invaded the western city of Fallujah in November 2004.

"These criminals will know no safe place to hide in Diyala," Brigadier General Mick Bednarek said in a statement released by the US military.

"The people of Diyala are tired of the terror and violence these al-Qaeda thugs have brought to their province and are cooperating with us in order to root them out."

In addition to killing 30 suspected al-Qaeda militants, US and Iraqi forces uncovered several weapons caches, including four homemade bombs in homes and another 10 bombs buried underground, the US military said...

Police said five people including two children were killed in a mortar attack on the centre of Baquba. Police Captain Ibrahim Ezzadin said nine people, including two women, were wounded in the attack.

Read the rest at IOL

Fighting intensifies in Iraq

U.S. forces fighting al-Qaida and allied militants intensified operations Wednesday in Baghdad and on all four points of the compass around the capital...

An Associated Press reporter in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province to the north and east of Baghdad, reported intense gunbattles in the streets and around the main market district as American and Iraqi forces sought to clear the city of al-Qaida fighters.

Gen. Abdul-Karim al-Rubaie, an Iraqi military commander in Diyala, told AP security forces had ringed the city and were not letting anyone come or go. He said many al-Qaida fighters had hidden their weapons and were trying to flee the city.

"We fear that the insurgents want to mingle with civilians (trying to leave). ...Citizens have given us the names of hundreds of al-Qaida elements who have quit fighting and are hiding in their houses in Baqouba. These people are going to be arrested after the end of the battles," the general said...

The head of a Sunni insurgent group that has turned against al-Qaida in Diyala province and is cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi forces in the area said his fighters were participating in the operations and had succeeded in clearing several neighborhoods in eastern and western Baqouba.

Read the rest at AOL News

Secondary assaults taking place south and west of Baghdad

In what appeared to be the second largest assault, an estimated 2,500 U.S. soldiers were pushing into districts south and southeast of the city where they killed four insurgents and detained more than 60. "In addition, 17 boats were destroyed, significantly disrupting insurgent operations on the Tigris River," the military said.

West of Baghdad U.S. and Iraqi forces were "engaging insurgents and al-Qaeda elements in more rural areas. These operations are helping to interdict the enemy along the belts between Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi and the cities of the Western Euphrates River Valley."

The military has reported using mortars, artillery, helicopters and fighter jets in support of ground forces in Baqouba and elsewhere.

Read the rest at PRI News