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'Op Market Sweep' captures Fallujah arms dealers

Army News Service

Release Date: 1/13/2004

By Spc. Justin A. Carmack

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 13, 2004) -- Soldiers from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment capitalized on a month of hard work as they executed Operation Market Sweep, becoming the first Coalition troops to successfully penetrate the weapons market in downtown Fallujah.

Coalition forces had previously made attempts to confiscate arms from this area, but many of those selling weapons in the market had eluded capture. The earlier missions had resulted in the capture of only a few individuals. That left numerous men able to continue trading arms. However, this time the illicit arms dealers were not so lucky.

Prior to Operation Market Sweep, more traditional methods of approaching the downtown market had been used. The 1st Battalion of the 505th, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, used different techniques.

"It was difficult (during previous operations) to approach the market. It has many narrow alleys and corridors," said Maj. Steve Sears, 3rd Brigade Fire Support Officer. "As we approached, often times (the arms dealers) would receive word that we were coming, lock up their shops and leave."

Nearly an entire battalion of troops approached the market by zigzagging through the streets, ensuring not to reveal the area in which they were going to stop. They then sealed off two key bridges leading to the market, so that no one could enter or flee. Finally, a group of paratroopers, undetected by the black market dealers, entered the market area and conducted precision searches of several different stores.

Due to superior intelligence gathering, the paratroopers were aware of several predetermined stores that were selling a variety of illegal weapons and materials. With this intelligence, the troops captured dealers and confiscated many weapons.

Upon conclusion of the operation, the paratroopers were pleasantly surprised with "the day's catch." The soldiers had confiscated more than 100 rifles, two heavy machine guns, 6,500 round of ammunition, 18 rockets, 244 grenades, 150 mortars and various explosive devices, including 17 pre-manufactured improvised explosive devices. During the operation more than 60 people were captured.

"This operation took a large dent out of the arms trade in the Fallujah area," Sears said. "Locals have said that since the beginning of our weapons seizing operations, there has been a significant decrease in weapons trade."

(Editor's note: Justin A. Carmack is a member of the 82nd Airborne Division and 350th MPAD.)

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