Monday, July 16, 2007

Military: New offensive launched south of Baghdad, 8000 troops involved

Above: A soldier with 10th Mountain Division rigs a bridge with explosives outside Quarghulli Village this week. The soldiers air-assaulted into the village to secure and destroy a bridge used by al-Qaida to traffic foreign fighters and weapons into the southern belt of Baghdad.

Around 8,000 U.S. forces launched a fresh operation on Monday targeting Islamist al Qaeda militants in farmland south of Baghdad, the military said.

The operation, called Marne Avalanche, is designed to stem the flow of weapons and militant fighters into the southern part of the capital, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are already fighting hard to clear them out, the military said in a statement.

In pre-dawn raids, helicopter-borne troops swept into an area the U.S. military said was an al Qaeda safe haven around the Euphrates river valley, 35 km (22 miles) south of Baghdad.

The terrain, criss-crossed with an extensive canal system, has been the location of fierce fighting between U.S. forces and militants in the past and at least one air strike was called in during the early hours of the operation, a spokeswoman said.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet