U.S. attacks terror base for foreign fighters in northern Iraq

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

BAGHDAD Iraqi and U.S. troops targeted a hub for Al Qaida-inspired fighters based in Syria in northern Iraq over the weekend.

Officials said units from the U.S. Army and Iraqi National Guard raided the city of Tall Afar in an attempt to destroy a haven for Islamic fighters from Syria. Officials said the force included a battalion from the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division as well as a unit from the Iraqi National Guard.

"The city of Tall Afar has been a suspected haven for terrorists crossing into Iraq from Syria," the U.S. military said in a statement.

The battle in Tall Afar, about 60 kilometers west of Mosul, lasted throughout Sunday,, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said U.S. combat units and Iraqi forces, backed by helicopters, battled insurgents for several hours before withdrawing from Tall Afar.

During the battle, the coalition force employed attack helicopters, F-16 multi-role fighters and main battle tanks while the insurgents responded with mortar and light arms gunfire. Witnesses said that on Sept. 4 snipers struck a U.S. Army OH-58D Kiowa helicopter, which was forced to make an emergency landing. At least 15 casualties were reported in Tall Afar.

Since July, the U.S. military has tried to halt the flow of insurgents from Syria to Iraq. The military has conducted a sustained operation in the Anbar province along the border with Syria to stop insurgents and weapons.

Iraqi and U.S. forces also attacked a Sunni insurgency stronghold in Latifyah, south of Baghdad. Officials said 12 Iraqi security officers were killed in the attack in which 500 insurgents were captured and a large amount of rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and TNT was seized. There were no reports that foreign fighters were captured.

[On Monday, at least six U.S. soldiers were killed in a car bombing next to a military convoy outside Faluja. U.S. troops have not entered Faluja since April.]

Officials said the U.S. military has increased the use of Iraqi military and security forces in counter-insurgency operations. They said the performance of the Iraqi forces has improved, but they still could not carry out independent operations.

On Sunday, Iraq announced the capture of a leading Saddam Hussein aide, Izzet Eddin Al Douri, in the north. Iraqi officials said about 70 of Al Douri's bodyguards were killed or injured in the operation. The United States refused to confirm the report.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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