U.S. conducts 20 raids, captures 200 suspected loyalists

Operating Sidewinder exploits new intelligence

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

The United States has launched its third operation in as many weeks to capture Sunni insurgents loyal to deposed President Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. Army Operation Sidewinder captured nearly 200 insurgency suspects including an Iraqi colonel in more than 20 raids throughout Sunni towns in central Iraq. The operation was led by the 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Iron Horse.

Officials said the division employed its hi-tech systems to detect and track Saddam insurgents in the cities of Baghdad, Faluja, A-Ramadi and Tikrit. They said the operation was meant to exploit new intelligence on Saddam loyalists, blamed for a series of lethal attacks on U.S. troops.

On Sunday, at least 20 people were killed in what was termed a huge explosion at an ammunition depot in Haditha, west of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The A-Jazeera television network said the casualty figure could rise to 150.

Sunni insurgents have escalated their attacks over the last week. They have employed rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and firearms in what officials now term an organized effort.

"Our goal is to remove Baath Party officials, terrorists and criminal elements who are preventing peace and security in Iraq and slowing rebuilding in the country," Maj. Sean Gibson, a military spokesman, said.

The assessment of military commanders in Iraq does not appear to be shared by Defense Department officials. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the insurgency is the result of a range of unconnected forces.

"I don't use the phrase 'guerrilla war,' because there isn't one," Rumsfeld said. "They are all slightly different in why they are there and what they are doing. That doesn't make it anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance. They are functioning more like terrorists."

Officials said the army campaign, which included raids in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, has been accompanied by intense efforts to locate Saddam. They said the capture of Saddam will help break the Sunni insurgency.

"There is no doubt that the fact that we have not been able to show his fate allows the remnants on the Ba'ath regime to go around the bazaars and villages and say Saddam will come back so do not cooperate with the coalition," U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said.

U.S. officials said the military has detained 1,330 suspected insurgents in Operation Desert Scorpion, which began June 15. They said the 1st Armored Division and the 4th Infantry Division also confiscated hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition during the operation.

The Bush administration is preparing for help from allies in Iraq. Two divisions headed by Britain and Poland are expected to arrive over the next two months and U.S. officials said a third international division could be established.

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