Da Arab News del 10/05/2005
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=63543&d=...

Scores Die in US Iraq Offensive

di Naseer Al-Nahr

BAGHDAD — The US military yesterday claimed killing 75 people in a major offensive against insurgents on Iraq’s border with Syria. The rebels trashed the claimed in a statement posted on the Internet.

Marines, sailors and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, were conducting the offensive in an area north of the Euphrates River, in the Al-Jazirah Desert, a known smuggling route and sanctuary for foreign insurgents, the military said.

The brief statement did not specify when the operation began, how many troops were involved or whether there had been any American casualties. But US Lt. Col. Steven Boylan later said the offensive started Saturday, and the US military reported that two Marines were killed in the area on Sunday. The Marines were killed in separate incidents, the first in Al-Qaim, the second in Ubaydi, two areas close to the Syrian border.

The offensive is one of the largest involving US troops since American and Iraqi forces took over the insurgent bastion of Fallujah in November. Two weeks ago, about 1,000 US soldiers completed a four-day operation to root out insurgents and arms caches in an area north of Baghdad where a civilian helicopter was shot down.

The offensives are part of stepped-up raids on suspected insurgent hideouts across the country in recent weeks, including a number near the Syrian border, where US and Iraqi officials say foreign militants are crossing into the country to attack coalition forces.

The Chicago Tribune reported that more than 1,000 US troops supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships raided villages Sunday in and around Ubaydi, about 300 km west of Baghdad, in an operation expected to last several days.

The report, by a journalist embedded with the US forces, said the offensive “was seeking to uproot a persistent insurgency in an area that American intelligence indicated has become a haven for foreign fighters flowing in from Syria.”

Some US forces were able to conduct limited raids north of the Euphrates River and predator drones provided air surveillance on Sunday, but most troops were stuck south of the waterway as engineers tried to build a pontoon bridge there, the Tribune said.

It also quoted some Marines as saying residents of one riverside town turned off all their lights at night, apparently to warn neighboring towns of the approaching US troops.

On Sunday, the US military said coalition forces killed six insurgents and detained 54 suspects in raids targeting the country’s most feared terror group, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, in Qaim, a Syrian border town about 320 km west of Baghdad. Coalition forces said they acted on information they received from Mohammed Amin Hussein Al-Rawi, an associate of Iraq’s most wanted militant, Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi. Rawi was captured April 26.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq denied the US claim of rebel casualties. “We tell you, o brothers of unity, that our Mujahedeen are enjoying victory or martyrdom... The Americans cannot count the number of their losses... your brothers in the organization of Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers continue their jihad against the enemies of God.”

Another militant group, Army of Ansar Al-Sunna, said it had abducted a Japanese national working at a US base. The group posted on its website a picture of a Japanese passport bearing the name Akihiko Saito as well as an identification card saying he was a security manager. The group said it seized him after it ambushed a convoy of cars coming from the US base near the capital Baghdad when the convoy neared the town of Hit in Iraq’s western region.

The militant group said there had been 12 Iraqi “apostates” and five armed foreigners traveling in the convoy. “The Mujahedeen captured them and killed them immediately with the exception of one and he is Japanese.”

The organization, one of the main insurgent groups, has claimed responsibility for attacks against US forces and the Iraqi government and killed several hostages.

Meanwhile, the leader of Sydney’s Muslims yesterday flew to Iraq to negotiate with those holding an Australian hostage and demanding that Canberra pull its troops out of Iraq. Egyptian-born Sheikh Taj Aldin Al-Hilaly will offer, on behalf of Wood’s family, a “generous” charitable donation to “help the people of Iraq” and secure the release of the 63-year-old construction engineer.

“We are going to Iraq to help our Australian brother, that’s all,” Hilaly said before flying to Baghdad. “We feel for his family and we will do our best to bring brother Douglas Wood home.”

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