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Monday, November 19, 2007       Free Headline Alerts

U.S. hits Al Qaida in 4 northern Iraq provinces

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has staged a major operation against Al Qaida in northern Iraq.

The U.S.-led coalition and the Iraq Army launched Operation Iron Hammer in four provinces in northern Iraq. Officials said the operation, which started in early November, was meant to eliminate the Al Qaida presence in such provinces as Kirkuk and Mosul, Middle East Newsline reported.

"During the operation, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces have undermined Al Qaida operations and discovered more than 50 caches across the Multinational Division-North area of operations," the U.S. military said on Sunday.

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The operation has resulted in U.S. casualties. At least three U.S. soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing on Sunday in the Diyala province. Attacks were also reported against U.S. troops in Baquba, in which three Iraqi civilians were killed.

"Iraqi and coalition forces have degraded Al Qaida in Iraq's vehicle bomb networks in Baghdad in recent months, which has contributed to reduced violence here in the capital," U.S. military spokesman Adm. Gregory Smith said. "But this is a continued effort. Car and truck bombs remain Al Qaida's primary weapon."

The military said Operation Iron Hammer consisted of three U.S. brigade combat teams and four Iraq Army divisions. Officials said hundreds of Al Qaida suspects and significant weapons caches have been captured.

"The caches contained more than 500 mortar and artillery rounds, three tons of homemade explosives, countless IED-making materials, hundreds of anti-tank and personnel mines and more than 100 machine guns," the military said.

On Nov. 11, the U.S. military reported the detention of 200 insurgents in the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, Mosul and Salaheddin. Officials said Iraqi and U.S. troops retrieved Al Qaida documents that outlined the insurgency network.

"Every day the streets of Mosul are becoming more vibrant with shopkeepers, as we provide increased security for the Iraqi people," Brig. Gen. Moutaa Habib Jassem Jewab, commander of Iraq Army's 2nd Division, said.



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