By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 26, 2007 – Tips that led to the discovery of a bomb-making factory in western Iraq demonstrate that the Iraqi people are fed up with terrorists operating in their midst and stepping forward to help remove them, military officials in Baghdad told reporters today. Officials from 3rd Brigade, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, briefed reporters about a search for weapons caches that ultimately led to the bomb factory Feb. 20 in Gharmah, about 10 miles east of Fallujah.
Army Capt. Matt Gregory, commander of Company A, described the materials uncovered during the raid: blasting caps, ballistic glass used in up-armored Humvees, and five vehicles, one full of propane tanks and initiation devices.
But only when the team continued its mission and found a chemical workshop and metal workshop did they realize the significance of their find, Gregory said. They found homemade explosives and "quite a sizable selection of chemicals," including canisters of chlorine, several 55-gallon barrels of nitric acid and several bags of fertilizer, as well as a Russian bomb.
"At that point, we realized that this objective was a lot bigger than what we had planned for and what we had ever hoped to find," he said.
The team returned after daylight to continue the search, he said, finding mortar and artillery rounds, rockets and enemy documents.
Army Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny, the brigade's commander, called the cooperation that led to the find proof that the Iraqi people don't like living under the intimidation campaign al Qaeda has imposed on them.
When the brigade first arrived at Camp Fallujah in the fall, "we quickly found the local civilians were terrorized and were threatened, and they did not like life under al Qaeda. They wanted a way out," Keaveny said. "And we found very quickly that, once we showed our compassion and our professionalism, they would be willing to work with us."
Over time, relationships built between the troops and the local Iraqis led to tips and information about al Qaeda that led to actionable intelligence. The effort began to have a domino effect as one raid led to more intelligence that led to even more raids -- most recently, the bomb-making factory.
"We continue to conduct more raids, recovery more documentation, more IED-making materials, more sniper capabilities," Keaveny said.
Iraqis are demonstrating that they want to be a part of this effort and help clear their communities of terrorists, he said. "We are seeing the locals stand up more and more, working with us, working with the Iraqi security forces, police and army, for their road ahead," he said. "The Iraqi people are standing up for their own freedom (and) ... so that their kids can grow up without ... oppression from al Qaeda."
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