U.S.-Kurds root out Al Qaida satellite in northern Iraq

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

ANKARA U.S. and Kurdish forces have routed an Al Qaida-linked group in northern Iraq.

U.S. commanders said special operations forces in cooperation with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan destroyed positions held by Ansar Islam, an Al Qaida satellite group. They said Ansar was defeated through heavy air bombing, cruise missile strikes and infantry battles.

The entire U.S.-led campaign took 36 hours, the commanders said. In all, at least 300 Ansar fighters were killed and the rest were driven out of northern Iraq last week. Many of the Ansar members were said to have fled south or over the Iranian border.

"In a day and a half, a terrorist organization that gripped this area was rooted out," a U.S. officer said on Tuesday.

The officer said the U.S. force was comprised of 100 special operations troops and the PUK contributed several thousand combatants. He did not elaborate.

U.S. officials said special forces also destroyed Ansar's Khurmal camp in northeastern Iraq near the Iranian border. They said the camp was used by up to 500 Ansar insurgents along with allies from Al Qaida. Most of the Ansar members were said to have been Arab foreign nationals.

"We believe they were developing poisons for use against civilians in Europe and the United States," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday. "Our teams are carefully examining the facilities to uncover any potential information or evidence that may still exist following the strikes."

U.S. B-52 bombers have also targeted Iraqi military positions near the city of Kirkuk. Two Iraqi Republican Guard divisions stationed in the area have been moved south toward Baghdad. Officials said the Nebuchadnezzar division of the Republican Guard has maintained a brigade in Kirkuk.

In the south, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division were preparing to enter southern Iraq. About 5,000 soldiers from the division arrived in Kuwait on Tuesday. Three U.S. warships began unloading tanks, amored vehicles, weapons and equipment for the division at Kuwait's Shuaiba port.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover