ANKARA Ñ 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
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