Officials said the air strikes, meant to support Operation Phantom
Phoenix, included two B-1 bombers and four F-16 multi-role fighter, which
targeted three large areas. They said each bomber made two passes, and the
F-16s followed to complete the mission set.
At the same time, U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters were tracking and
targeting Al Qaida operatives south of Baghdad. Officials said the
helicopters were working with ground troops to maintain pressure on Al Qaida
improvised explosive devices cell.
"We've been conducting detailed zone reconnaissance and
intelligence-driven engagements to set the conditions for follow-on
operations in support of Marne Thunderbolt and Phantom Phoenix," Lt. Col.
Robert Wilson, executive officer for the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, said.
allow the commanding general and all his subordinate commanders to get
inside the enemy's decision cycle, timeline and even his sanctuaries while
minimizing the risk to friendly forces and capitalizing on the
vulnerabilities of the enemies of the Iraqi people."
The U.S. military has launched another offensive against Al Qaida in
northern Iraq. Operation Iron Harvest was meant to target Al Qaida's
significant presence in Diyala province, which fled from the Anbar province.
In all, nine U.S. soldiers were killed over the last two days.
"We've also seen some reflections that the lower-level [Al Qaida]
fighters are very upset at their leaders," Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling,
commander of Multinational Division North, said.
Hertling said said Al Qaeda leaders around Mosul appeared to be
for money. The general, based on interrrogations of captured operatives,
said this has led Al Qaida to abduct Iraqis and hold them for ransom in an
attempt to obtain quick cash.
One of the Al Qaida operatives was identified as Jassim Mohammed, also
known as Mullah Jasim. Jasim was identified as commander of an Al Qaida cell
in Hajwa as well as an associate of the late Abu Harith, killed on Nov. 21,
"Jasim allegedly received funding for operations from Syria, one of his
known safe havens," the U.S. military said.