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Task Force 2-12 Finds Large Cache Near Euphrates

Latifiyah, Iraq
-- When Task Force 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, of the 1st Cavalry Division, moved from Camp Striker in Baghdad to Dogwood less than a week ago, they were met with a barrage of mortar hits on the camp and improvised explosive device hits on their convoys. Operation River Walk, the first large-scale cordon and search operation in this area along the Euphrates River, was held on Jan. 2 and 3, a few days after their arrival.

While one of the purposes of Operation River Walk was a general search of the area, another part was designed to take out specific targets early in the operation.

The Task Force believed anti-Iraqi insurgents had moved into the area of North Babil after military operations in Fallujah and Baghdad put them on the run.

"I think we've had indicators the whole time the 1st Cavalry Division has been here that this has been an area that the insurgents have been basing out of, and have been using to conduct attacks inside Baghdad," said Maj. Chris Wilbeck, the Task Force 2-12 operations officer. "So this area directly influences the security inside Baghdad, part of the larger Multi-National Force effort to deny sanctuary to any insurgents."

To accomplish this, elements of the battalion's Blackhawk Company, along with their attached 10th Platoon, Scouts Battalion of Estonian light infantrymen, moved in on specific targets in the area where many of the mortars and IEDs were traced to. What they found there was one of the biggest caches of weaponry and munitions found by the task force this year, according to Capt. Dave Perry, the battalion's assistant operations officer.

After coming up empty handed during several searches in the target area, the team of American and Estonian Soldiers got a tip on a suspected weapons dealer.

A search of the suspect's home and grounds yielded a cache loaded with hundreds of mortar rounds and other explosives, along with more than 70,000 assault rifle rounds and a variety of illegal weaponry and implicating electronic equipment.

Seven suspects were detained during the search.

Wilbeck and Perry attributed much of the success of this search to the cooperation of the Iraqi people.

"Today was a good example of the Iraqi people helping out to ensure their own security," Wilbeck said. "We couldn't be here finding all these weapons, mortars and IEDs if it hadn't been for the help of local Iraqis pointing out that these were the bad guys. So, it's not just our efforts, it's the efforts of the Iraqi people in conjunction with us."

In this case, the intelligence was generated on the ground with the help of Spc. Ahmad Mohammed, a medic with the battalion's headquarters company. Mohammed speaks fluent Arabic, and found himself playing the role of interpreter more often than not over the past year. He said it's not that easy.

"Not everyone here is going to give you information. Ninety-nine percent of the people here are not going to give you information, he said. What you really have to do is talk to them and try to convince them that their family is more important than these guys that are trying to hide. It just takes one. I don't need 100 guys. I just need one to say something."

This time, one was enough.

"We found someone who was willing to help," he said.

At the end of Operation River Walk, the cache was one of nine that Task Force 2-12 found in the Latifiyah area in conjunction with the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

Along with the weapons caches, the operation ended with the detainment of 43 suspected anti-Iraqi insurgents and the discovery and destruction of several improvised explosive devices.

"We had to come down here and prepare for a couple days and the enemy got a couple shots on us, but the ball's back in our court again and we will clean house," Perry said. (By Spc. Andy Miller, 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Release #050105x

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