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Control of Iraq-Syria Border Re-established, Major General Says

01 December 2005

Anti-insurgent operations create conditions for safe elections

Washington -- Recently completed military operations have re-established Iraqi control of the Iraq-Syrian border, says the spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq.

Major General Rick Lynch, in a December 1 briefing with reporters in Baghdad, said the Iraqi security forces now secure 258 border forts, up from 51 a year ago.  With the addition of technological advances at border crossings, they also have disrupted the flow of terrorists and foreign fighters from Syria.

Besides disrupting the insurgency, Lynch said the other goals of the operations include defeating terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers and providing sufficient security so that the citizens of al-Anbar province freely can take part in the December 15 parliamentary elections.  He said he expected significant voter participation.

Although there had been early reports that insurgents had engaged in widespread attacks against coalition bases and local government buildings in the provincial capital of Ramadi, Lynch said the commander on the ground reported that a single rocket-propelled grenade launched against a U.S.-Iraqi observation post caused no damage.

The expectation always has been that violence would spike not only with the approach of the election, he said, but with the ever-increasing desperation of insurgents intent on disrupting Iraq’s democracy movement.

Elements of the insurgency prefer different weapons, according to Lynch.  Those affiliated with Zarqawi’s network use suicide bombers, while the so-called rejectionists – Iraqis opposed to the formation of a democratic government – use improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  The increased use of IEDs in October resulted in high casualties.  But Lynch attributed a sharp drop in the number of suicide bombings in November to decisive coalition operations against the Zarqawi network.

About 96 percent of suicide bombers have been foreigners, he said, recruited and brought into Iraq by Zarqawi.  Progress against his forces has been made by limiting his ability to import recruits, killing many of his key leaders, restricting his freedom of movement and denying him weapons, Lynch said.

A growing number of weapon caches have been taken out of circulation due to the twin efforts by patrolling Iraqi security forces and Iraqi citizens who have provided tips because they “have had enough” of Zarqawi’s violent attacks on innocent women and children.

Even though Zarqawi remains at large and can be expected to continue to launch attacks in the next two weeks, Lynch said U.S. and Iraqi forces “ will work to … defeat him.”

For additional information, see Iraq Update.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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