WASHINGTON -- Operation Matador reached its fourth day today, as Marines, Sailors and Soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, continued combat operations in the northwestern part of Iraq's Anbar province.
According to military officials, three Marines have been killed in the course of the operation, as well as "a significant number of terrorists, anti-Iraqi forces and foreign fighters." The offensive is aimed at eliminating terrorists and foreign fighters from the area.
Officials said information gathered before the operation about the presence of foreign fighters in the region has been confirmed by clothing, identification, dialect, and by admissions from detainees, but the number of foreign fighters in the Qaim area is not known.
The region is used as a staging area for foreign fighters who cross the Syrian border illegally through smuggling routes known as "rat lines." It is there that these foreign fighters receive weapons and equipment to conduct attacks, such as suicide car bombs and assassination or kidnapping of political or civilian targets, in the more populated key cities of Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul, military officials said.
East of Husaybah on May 10, AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crews saw three armed males digging holes into the road to place explosives. The helicopters engaged and killed the terrorists.
In Husaybah overnight, half a mile south of Camp Gannon, Marines killed several terrorists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles. The enemy was brought down by Marine light-machine-gun fire, officials reported.
The night of May 9, at a vehicle checkpoint five kilometers southeast of Ubaydi, the scene of the initial fighting and in the area where terrorists launched the suicide-vehicle attacks against a convoy, Marines fired on a car that continued toward the checkpoint despite warnings to stop. The driver was unharmed, but a woman and child in the vehicle died as a result of the incident, officials said.
The driver approaching the checkpoint ignored the posted warning signs to stop and, bypassing an obstacle barrier, continued toward the post. At 200 meters from the checkpoint, Marines used hand and arm signals, and then fired a warning flare toward the vehicle. The Marines next fired warning shots in front of the vehicle when the driver didn't stop.
The driver then jumped out of his moving car and fled away on foot, leaving his car and its passengers, to continue toward the checkpoint. The Marines then fired at the vehicle's engine block to disable it. The vehicle rolled to a stop in front of the checkpoint. At the time the vehicle was heading toward the checkpoint, the Marines were unaware of the gender of the passenger or that there was a child in the vehicle. The Marines said they believed the vehicle was a suicide car bomb, officials reported. The driver was apprehended and is being held for questioning in a nearby detention facility.
Task Force Liberty soldiers discovered a munitions cache east of Kirkuk at about 10:30 a.m. May 10. The cache contained more than two-dozen artillery rounds and blasting caps. Multinational Force Iraq explosive ordnance disposal personnel secured the site for future destruction.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)