WASHINGTON -- Operation Spear continues in Iraq's Anbar province. Marines and Iraqi soldiers are making good progress, according to a Marine press release issued today.
About 1,000 U.S. Marines and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2 of 2nd Marine Division, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade launched the offensive, called Rohme in Arabic, in the early hours of June 17.
In addition, Marines launched Operation Dagger in the Southern Lake Thar-Thar region of Anbar province.
Operation Spear is centered on the city of Karabilah. The area, near Iraq's border with Syria, has been a hotbed of insurgent activity, Pentagon officials said. Coalition leaders said that foreign fighters are using the area to infiltrate the country. They receive clothing, identity cards, weapons and instructions at safe houses in the area. The foreigners then spread out through Iraq. Pentagon officials said groups in the area are part of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network.
The operation is aimed at rooting out anti-Iraqi forces and foreign terrorists, and disrupting their support systems. Marines and Iraqi soldiers continued operations through the night securing key objectives in and around the city while conducting "presence patrols," intended to hamper terrorists' movements.
While clearing an objective, Marines and Iraqi soldiers discovered four Iraqi hostages who had been beaten, handcuffed and chained to a wall in a bunker located in central Karabilah. They also found and destroyed several small weapons caches. Weapons found included a complete mortar system and a number of prefabricated improvised explosive devices. Marines have found and destroyed vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in Karabilah.
An Iraqi company and reconnaissance unit, along with Marines came under heavy small-arms fire while conducting operations within the city June 17. Iraqi soldiers, supported by U.S. Marines, routed the terrorists without suffering any casualties.
Coalition aircraft using precision-guided munitions destroyed targets in the city. "Only buildings occupied by terrorists firing on Marines and Iraqi soldiers were bombed," Marine officials said in a release. "Three buildings were confirmed destroyed."
There were some civilian casualties when insurgents seized their homes and fired on coalition forces. Marines evacuated four civilian casualties injured in the day's fighting to a nearby military medical center for treatment.
Marine officials said they do not know how many of the terrorists in the region are foreigners. There are no official estimates of the number of terrorists killed or captured, nor are there any reports if coalition casualties.
Regimental Combat Team 2 contains elements from the 1st Tank Battalion, the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and the 2nd and the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalions.
Operation Dagger is centered around 1,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division. Iraqi security forces are also participating.
The operation is focused on locating hidden weapons caches and denying terrorists sanctuary in an area 85 kilometers northwest of Baghdad that is a suspected logistical hub.
This is the second Marine operation in the area. Marines participating in Operation Pitchfork recently searched the area east of the Lake Thar-Thar region. During that operation Marines located over 50 hidden weapons caches and an underground bunker in the vicinity of a rock quarry.
In March, 42nd Infantry Division soldiers and Iraqi security forces engaged and killed a large number of terrorists at a training camp in the area.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)