American Forces Press Service
Jan. 18, 2008 - Coalition forces killed 13 terrorists and detained three suspects yesterday and today during operations targeting al Qaeda networks in central and northern Iraq, military officials reported. Southwest of Hawijah this morning, coalition forces targeted an alleged senior leader involved in the al Qaeda in Iraq network in Kirkuk. The suspect allegedly is responsible for facilitating finances for terrorist operations in the region and is involved in improvised-explosive-device attacks. Reports also indicate he was a close associate of Abu Harith, the senior leader of the Kirkuk terrorist network, before Harith was killed during a coalition operation Nov. 21.
As coalition forces arrived in the target area, they were engaged by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The ground force returned fire and called for supporting aircraft. As the firefight continued, coalition forces saw armed terrorists emerging from the target building. Supporting aircraft engaged them and enemy personnel firing from inside the target buildings. Due to the hostile environment, the ground force pulled back and called for supporting aircraft to engage the buildings to destroy any remaining explosives. The ground force assessed that a total of nine terrorists were killed during the engagement.
West of Muqdadiyah today, coalition forces targeted alleged associates of the al Qaeda in Iraq network in the northeastern Diyala River Valley region. Reports indicate the individuals were associated with an al Qaeda in Iraq meeting that was targeted by coalition forces yesterday after forces identified a terrorist transporting an anti-aircraft weapon in his vehicle. Coalition forces confirmed the presence of the terrorists in the target area and called a supporting aircraft to engage, killing four terrorists and destroying two buildings believed to be used for terrorist activities.
During three coordinated operations near Samarra yesterday and this morning, coalition forces detained three suspects while targeting foreign-terrorist facilitators involved in the al Qaeda network in the city. Reports indicate that one of the suspected terrorists detained is involved in foreign-terrorist facilitation and is associated with al Qaeda members who conduct attacks against coalition forces. The individual allegedly uses his residence as a safe haven for al Qaeda members and foreign terrorists and has ties to senior leaders in the network.
"Al Qaeda has the capability to carry out violent, spectacular attacks against the Iraqi people," said Navy Capt. Vic Beck, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We are continuing to keep the pressure on them and are squarely focused on dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq networks."
Elsewhere, coalition forces killed four terrorists yesterday during operations targeting al Qaeda in Qulayah, west of Muqdadiyah.
During the operation, surveillance elements positively identified several terrorists at an al Qaeda in Iraq meeting location. Coalition forces directed a precision air strike and assessed that four terrorists were killed in the operation.
Coalition forces also directed a precision air strike on a vehicle, which intelligence reports indicated was carrying an anti-aircraft weapon. The driver of the vehicle transporting the weapon was one of the terrorists killed in the initial air strike. The vehicle and weapon were destroyed to prevent future use by terrorists.
"We continue to strike the al Qaeda networks that conduct heinous attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, and innocent civilians," said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "Iraqi and coalition forces are taking the fight to these terrorists, keeping them on the defensive and diminishing their ability to attack."
Also yesterday, coalition forces killed three terrorists during operations targeting al Qaeda networks north of Jalula.
Intelligence reports from previous operations led coalition forces to a location northeast of Hamrin Lake, where al Qaeda in Iraq networks were believed to be operating. Coalition forces assessed that recent success in the Diyala River Valley region pushed these terrorists to seek safe haven in the area.
As coalition forces arrived at one of the target buildings in the area, they repeatedly called for the occupants to come out, but the occupants did not comply. The ground force was then engaged by armed gunmen from the rooftop and surrounding courtyard. Coalition forces returned fire, and a supporting aircraft engaged to suppress the enemy force.
Once the enemy fire ceased, coalition forces cleared the area and assessed that three terrorists were killed during the engagement. The ground force discovered that two women were also killed and two other women were wounded during the engagement. The wounded women received immediate medical attention by coalition medical personnel before being airlifted to a military medical facility for further treatment.
During another operation in the area, coalition forces returned to a building from a previous operation and called for the building's occupants to come out. An individual exited, but did not comply with verbal instructions and ignored warning shots. The man continued to approach the ground force, and coalition forces engaged, killing him.
"Coalition forces deeply regret when civilians are hurt or killed during operations to rid Iraq of terrorism," Danielson said. "These terrorists deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence."
In other Iraq news, an explosion partially collapsed a school in southeastern Mosul yesterday.
Multinational Division North received intelligence reports indicating the school bombing was an intentional act by extremists operating in the area. The explosion, which occurred inside the structure, caused the northwestern and southwestern corners of the building to cave in. There are currently no reports of casualties or a cause for the explosion.
In Iraq on Jan. 16, air strikes in Arab Jabour dropped 10,000 pounds of munitions on bunkers used by al Qaeda as training sites for new recruits. Intelligence led 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, deployed from Fort Stewart, Ga., to the bunkers. Air Force B-1 bombers dropped 19 GBU-31s on the site.
"This operation maintains the momentum of Operation Thunderbolt by denying enemy sanctuaries and enemy caches, ultimately downgrading their capabilities," said Army Maj. James Wilburn, daytime chief of operations for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
South of Zambraniyah, soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regt., 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, found two booby-trapped houses while on a foot patrol. Air support was called by 6th Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment to destroy the houses. Navy F-18 jets dropped a 500-pound bomb on each of the houses.
Operation Marne Thunderbolt, a part of the countrywide Operation Phantom Phoenix, continues to relentlessly pursue al Qaeda and other extremist elements operating south of Baghdad, U.S. officials said.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)