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CNN.com February 26, 2005

U.S., Iraqis continue major insurgent roundup

A major joint operation of U.S. and Iraqi forces continued for a seventh day as troops searched for suspected insurgents Saturday in towns along the Euphrates river in violent Anbar province.

A CNN correspondent embedded with U.S. Marines said forces are trying to surround insurgents who have found sanctuary in cities like Ramadi and Falluja, and smaller towns like Haditha.

"The main focus of the operations is to isolate these towns," senior Baghdad correspondent Jane Arraf said Saturday. "We went into Haditha this morning where tanks had rolled in overnight. They met very little resistance. But what they're trying to do is isolate the towns, surround them, so insurgents have nowhere to go."

Earlier in the week, Iraqi and U.S. forces launched Operation River Blitz, which has resulted in the detention of more than 100 suspected insurgents and the capture of piles of weapons and ammunition in the towns of Anbar, the military said. A huge swath of land that takes up nearly one-third of the country, Anbar is dotted with Sunni towns along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad to the Syrian border.

A U.S. soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action Friday, military officials said.

The death brings the total number of U.S. fatalities in the war to 1,492.

In western Baghdad, two Iraqi civilians were killed and a third was wounded Saturday when a suicide car bomber targeted -- but missed -- a U.S. military convoy, Iraqi police said.

The explosion went off about 8:55 a.m. (12:55 a.m. ET) near a supermarket on al-Adil highway, only a few meters from the convoy, police said. There were no U.S. casualties.

Journalist mourned

Raiedah Mohammed Wazan, a 40-year-old television anchorwoman in Ninevah province, was found shot to death Friday in the al-Wahda neighborhood in eastern Mosul, her husband said.

Wazan was buried Friday, and family members kept a mourning service on Saturday private for fear of attacks.

Wazan was abducted a week ago by unknown gunmen. She was found shot in the forehead and chest.

Mosul is the most populous city in northern Iraq, with about 1.74 million residents, according to globalsecurity.org.

Other developments

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who leads the religious Dawa Party, told reporters on Friday that he had picked up the backing of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric in Iraq. He had met with al-Sistani earlier Friday in Najaf.

U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have made four arrests and discovered bomb-making material, the U.S. military said Saturday. Tenth Mountain Division soldiers arrested four Iraqis in western Baghdad late Friday. The suspected insurgents were taken for questioning after the car they were in was deemed suspicious. Iraqi soldiers discovered the explosives Saturday morning while on patrol, Task Force Baghdad said.


Copyright 2005, Cable News Network