U.S. Army raids Saddam strongholds to capture weapons

Monday, June 16, 2003

The U.S. Army has launched an offensive to capture weapons from Sunni insurgents believed loyal to deposed President Saddam Hussein.

The offensive has focused on Faluja, the center of Sunni unrest in western Iraq. On Sunday, army troops, tanks and helicopters raided suspected insurgency strongholds in the city, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported.

The U.S. operation, called Spartan Scorpion, has been described as a crackdown to seize unauthorized weapons and insurgents throughout Iraq. More than 1,300 U.S. troops from the army's 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade are participating in the Faluja operation, regarded as the first stage of the campaign. Other Iraqi towns were also raided over the weekend.

Officials said the insurgency strongholds in Faluja included 16 buildings where Sunni insurgents were said to have stockpiled weapons for use against U.S. forces. They said the operation had been timed to take place within hours after the termination of an amnesty for Iraqis who agreed to surrender heavy weapons.

"We wanted to focus on the people providing the resources and the command and control, and I think we did that," Col. David Perkins, commander of the 2nd Brigade, said.

Later, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said five Iraqi groups are behind the anti-U.S. attacks. Myers said all of the groups are believed connected to the deposed Ba'ath Party.

The army operation was the second in a week in western Iraq. Last week, the Third Division launched Operation Peninsula Strike in an attempt to flush out Sunni insurgents.

About 400 people were said to have been captured. They included former Iraqi generals.

Over the weekend, the U.S. military continued to sustain insurgency strikes. Iraqi gunners fired mortars that struck the headquarters of the U.S. military in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

Near Balad, north of Baghdad, Sunni insurgents ambushed a U.S. convoy on Sunday. Several U.S. soldiers were injured.

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