WASHINGTON, July 20, 2006 – Iraqi and coalition soldiers launched a new operation near Kirkuk, Iraq, this morning, and Iraqi army soldiers have captured more than a dozen terrorists near Baghdad over the past two days. Iraqi soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, and U.S. soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, kicked off combined Operation Gaugamela (gaw'guh-MEE-luh). They simultaneously surrounded and entered the cities of Hawija and Riyadh, just west of Kirkuk, searching for suspected al Qaeda terrorists.
The operation, requested by local Sunni Arab leaders, follows a series of terror attacks in the area and comes amid reports of al Qaeda terror cells in the area, U.S. officials said. In the past five weeks, 31 Iraqi soldiers have been killed in terrorist attacks in the region, and six policemen were killed in Hawija earlier this week. U.S. and Iraqi troops surrounded Hawija, blocking off escape routes, as another combined force air assaulted into the market in the heart of the city. The units are cordoning off the area and searching for terrorist forces. Meanwhile, Iraqi and coalition forces surrounded the village of Riyadh, approximately 10 miles away, and are searching that city.
Operation Gaugamela is named for the battle in which Alexander drove the Persian army from the city of Gaugamela, U.S. officials said. In other news from Iraq, Iraqi army soldiers from 5th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, found a newly emplaced improvised explosive device early yesterday while conducting a patrol south of Baghdad.
While the troops were investigating the device, terrorists hiding in the area attacked them with small-arms fire. When the soldiers returned fire, the terrorists broke contact and fled the area. The Iraqi army soldiers pursued them and caught 12 suspects. The soldiers traced wires that led to the device and believe it was not yet armed. The explosive device was removed without causing injury or damage.
Elsewhere, Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers prevented a terrorist attack and detained one terrorist at approximately 11 p.m. July 18 while he was emplacing an IED southwest of Baghdad. Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, observed two terrorists digging on the side of the road; one terrorist fled to avoid capture, and the other was taken into custody. The soldiers discovered a cache containing four IEDs, a 50 mm mortar tube, 10 60 mm mortars, two AK-47s, a camera with a night-vision-sight system attached, and a drum of 7.62 mm ammunition. A search of the area also led to the seizure of a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher and three RPG rounds. The area was cordoned off, and an explosive ordnance disposal team was called to the scene