By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 20, 2007 - Operation Phantom Strike, a series of combined coalition-Iraqi "quick-strike" offensives that launched last week continues to pressure extremist elements across Iraq, a top official there said today. Combined forces will conduct quick-strike raids against remaining extremist sanctuaries and staging areas over the coming weeks, Army Maj. Gen. James E. Simmons, deputy commander for support for Multinational Corps Iraq said during a conference call.
"(Forces) will carry out precision-targeting operations against extremist leadership and focus missions to counter the extremists' lethal use of (improvised explosive devices) and the (car bombs)," Simmons said. "We will continue to hunt down their leadership, deny them safe haven, disrupt their supply line and significantly reduce their capability to operate in Iraq."
In the first 24 hours of one operation, Multinational Division North soldiers captured and killed several enemies and seized weapons caches in the Diyala River Valley. Called Operation Lightning Hammer, this operation targeted extremists as they tried to reestablish sanctuaries, the general said.
Forces have experienced an "encouraging trend" of increased security over the past several weeks, he said.
"We believe that a continued, aggressive offensive operation to seek out and destroy these extremist networks will prove to be the most effective way to continue to protect the citizens of Iraq," Simmons said.
Operation Phantom Strike comes on the heels of Operation Phantom Thunder, a corps-level offensive launched June 15 that targeted al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiia extremists in, near and around Baghdad.
In 142 battalion-level joint operations, Iraqi and coalition forces detained 6,702 suspects, killed 1,196 enemies and wounded 419 others. Combined forces also killed or captured 382 high-value targets, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said during an Aug. 17 Pentagon briefing.
Troops also cleared 1,113 weapons caches and scores of IEDs and car bombs. "The number of found and cleared IEDs, (car bombs) and caches are approximately 50 percent higher than the same period last year due, in large part, to effective tips provided by concerned Iraqi citizens," Odierno added.
"Al Qaeda and other extremist elements will have to contend with an Iraqi population that no longer welcomes them," he said, "as well as quick-hitting offensive operations by coalition and Iraqi forces."