By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2006 – U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces have stepped up operations in Baghdad to curtail deadly sectarian violence that's plagued the city in recent months, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters in Baghdad today. Of 11 operations targeting death squads in Iraq over the past week, 10 were centered in or around Baghdad, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said at a news briefing.
The Baghdad operations were undertaken "to quell the surge of extremists seeking to exert control and impose their narrow, divisive view of the future of Iraq," Caldwell said. Some Shiite and Sunni factions have used death squads to intimidate others. Some senior U.S. military leaders have warned that the violence could spiral out of control. However, the United States government has vowed not to allow that to happen.
"Iraqi security forces and coalition forces continue to disrupt the terrorists and set the stage for Baghdadis to live stable lives," Caldwell said. U.S. and Iraqi forces continue searches to unearth enemy weapons caches, including 25 such stockpiles found last week, Caldwell said. More than 200 improvised explosive devices were found and cleared that week and 301 anti-Iraqi forces were captured.
U.S. and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad have been targeting kidnappers and corrupt police who help them, Caldwell said. The death squads and other extremists operating in Baghdad continue to use religious sites to store munitions and launch attacks, Caldwell said. A recent Iraqi army cordon-and-search operation at a Baghdad mosque site turned up IED-making equipment, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 rifles.
Yet, arms alone can't win the war against anti-Iraqi extremists, Caldwell pointed out. Iraqi civilians need to get involved, he said, since death squad members seek to submerge themselves among the populace. Iraqi citizens have to report information, he said. "They're going to have to be part of the solution."