Iraqi Forces Capture ISIL Fighters Blending In With Fleeing Villagers
By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2016 – Iraqi security forces detained 149 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters last week as the terrorists tried to blend in with 35,000 civilians fleeing numerous small villages along the Euphrates River Valley, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
"These cowards are now in [Iraqi forces] custody and will be prosecuted by the Iraqi government," Warren said during his weekly briefing with Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad.
As part of Operation Desert Lynx with help from U.S.-led coalition aircraft, the Iraqi security forces dropped leaflets last week in small villages to communicate with residents while trying to reduce civilian casualties and weaken ISIL morale, he said.
The leaflets gave villagers safety instructions and warned ISIL that ''[Iraq's Counterterrorism Service] lions are close,'' Warren quoted from the leaflet. The leaflet drop likely was one of several factors that got word to villagers, he said, noting that radio and television service remains operational.
The evacuees received life-saving assistance from the Iraqi government and many humanitarian organizations, Warren noted.
ISIL Fighters Die in Police Station Fight
In other Inherent Resolve news, Iraqi security forces and coalition air support killed about 50 ISIL fighters in a small town north of Ramadi in a counterattack after ISIL forces briefly seized a police station, Warren said, adding that the Iraqi forces also retook the station.
Highlighting the U.S.-led coalition's Iraq train-and-equip program, Warren said ongoing training has produced more than 20,000 trained security members since the effort began. The training provided Iraqi forces with "skills and equipment to succeed on the battlefield," Warren said. Particularly noteworthy, he added, is training the coalition has provided Iraqi special operations forces.
The commando course in Baghdad recently graduated 459 special operations trainees, he said. The eight-week course trains special operations forces in marksmanship, urban combat, close-quarters battle and battlefield medicine. Iraqis taught the course with coalition advisors who acted as mentors, Warren said. "We welcome those new 459 members of the Iraqi counter-terrorist service into the fight," he added.
Syrian Forces Repel ISIL on Mara Line
Along the Mara Line in Syria, where opposition forces continue engaging ISIL along the forward line of troops, Warren said the fighters seized several thousand villages and repelled ISIL attacks in others. And with support from more than 150 coalition airstrikes, Syrian Democratic Forces continue clearing operations in Shaddadi, the colonel said.
"These operations have killed 636 enemy fighters, freed 32 Yazidi women who had been held as slaves by ISIL, and gained 3,217 square kilometers," Warren said of the counter-ISIL fight in Syria, calling it "a good and successful operation."
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