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American Forces Press Service

Operation Steel Curtain Moves Into Husaybah

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2005 About 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and 2,500 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers report encountering sporadic resistance today - mostly small-arms fire and homemade bombs - as they have moved through the city of Husaybah, Iraq, near the Syrian border, officials said.

The action is part of Operation Steel Curtain, which began today to restore security and destroy the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network operating in the region. Officials report that Husaybah is a main center for transiting foreign fighters, equipment and money into Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists have used the region's porous borders to smuggle foreign fighters, money and equipment into the country to be used in their ongoing attacks against the Iraqi people and coalition forces. Terrorists continue to influence the local population of Husaybah through murder and intimidation and have vowed to prevent the citizens of western Anbar province from participating in the democratic process.

Authorities said Iraqi and U.S. forces from al Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists throughout the city. Iraqi scout platoons members, specially recruited soldiers from the al Qaim region of western Iraq near the Syrian border, embedded with U.S. and Iraqi infantry companies. Officials said they are helping identify terrorist strong points and areas known to contain homemade bombs.

Six bombs and mines have been discovered so far in the operation. Also, a suspected suicide car bomb was destroyed this morning by a coalition air strike.

Nine coalition air strikes have been conducted on enemy strong points throughout the day. Only buildings occupied by terrorists firing on Marines and Iraqi soldiers have been targeted.

Officials reported taking strict measures to prevent civilian casualties and property damage. The number of terrorists killed in the strikes is unconfirmed at this time.

Iraqi soldiers established temporary lodging area in a vacant housing district in Husaybah to be used by residents temporarily displaced by the operation. Iraqi and coalition forces have accepted about 400 residents and are providing them with billeting, food and security.

There are no reports of Iraqi soldier or civilian, or U.S. military fatalities.

Operation Steel Curtain marks the first large-scale employment of multiple battalion-sized units of Iraqi Army forces in combined operations with coalition forces in the last year in Anbar Province.

The offensive is part of Operation Hunter, designed to deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate in the Euphrates River Valley and establish a permanent security presence along the Syrian border. A more immediate aim is to provide a safe and secure environment for the Iraqi people in that region to vote in the Dec. 15 national elections.

Since early summer, the combat capabilities of the Iraqi forces have grown in Anbar province. Iraqi security forces now include almost two full Iraqi infantry divisions.

During the past six months, two division headquarters have formed in the province and four brigade headquarters and 10 infantry battalions have deployed there to join the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq-led insurgency.

(Based on Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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