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American Forces Press Service

Security Crackdown Continues in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2007 – Coalition and Iraqi forces are continuing their security crackdown in Iraq, taking suspected terrorists into custody, seizing illegal weapons and freeing a hostage in operations over the last two days.

Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers and Iraqi security forces increased their operational tempo in several areas of the Iraqi capital today.

“Intelligence-focused searches accompanied by clearing operations were conducted by coalition and Iraqi security forces in multiple locations across Baghdad today,” division spokesman Army Lt. Col. Scott R. Bleichwehl said. “These operations are designed to help protect the population through the reduction of violence as part of Operation Law and Order.”

Troops conducted targeted raids and cordon-and-search and clearing operations against extremist elements to deny them safe haven, Bleichwehl said. Increased security patrols were conducted throughout the city, he added.

During operations today, 14 suspects were detained and four weapons caches were discovered.

Special Iraqi army forces detained several suspects during operations today targeting a rogue militia cell in Mashru, south of Suwayrah. The operation, conducted with coalition advisors, targeted militia members involved in running a “punishment committee” in Mashru, officials said, conducting sectarian kidnappings, murdering
civilians and assassinating Iraqi police officers.

The cell also is involved in numerous roadside-bomb attacks as well as small-arms and machine-gun attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces in the area, officials said.

Iraqi forces detained two suspects at one location and were moving to another location when they received small-arms fire from two hostile fighters outside the structure, officials said. Iraqi forces returned fire, causing two fighters to surrender. They were detained by Iraqi forces, who then received more small-arms fire. Iraqi forces entered the building, cleared two rooms and detained several suspects. Entering a third room, Iraqi forces received more small-arms fire. They returned fire, killing one enemy fighter.

Iraqi forces secured the building without further incident.

Yesterday, special Iraqi army forces captured a large weapons cache during operations with coalition advisors in central Baghdad.

Iraqi forces entered the Barantha Mosque during operations targeting illegally armed militia members believed to be involved in kidnapping, torture and murder activities. The mosque reportedly is used as a place to conduct sectarian violence against Iraqi civilians, as well as a safe haven and weapons-storage area for illegal militia groups, officials said.

While coalition forces established security around the mosque, Iraqi forces entered the mosque in search of the weapons cache. Security guards at the mosque cooperated with Iraqi forces during the search, officials noted, as the Iraqi forces took every effort to have doors and locks opened by key-holding escorts during the search.

Iraqi forces found and confiscated three PKC heavy machine guns and 80 assault rifles. Minimal damage occurred during these operations, officials said, and no Iraqi civilian, Iraqi forces or coalition forces casualties were reported.

Also yesterday, coalition forces rescued an Iraqi citizen during an operation in the Salman Pak area targeting al Qaeda terrorists and an associated vehicle-bomb network.

During the operation, coalition forces found an Iraqi man shackled in a targeted building. Ground forces detained four men who were found hiding near the building. During a search, coalition forces found the hostage's cell phone on one of the detainees. The detainees are being held for questioning to determine their involvement in the hostage-taking, officials said.

The hostage reported he was tied up with a hood over his head for three days. He said he had prayed and fasted the entire three days, because he believed he was going to be executed by his captors. The man was taken to a nearby military medical facility for an examination.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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