US forces conduct massive arrest operation in central Iraq
A massive operation that has already included the arrest of at least 60 Iraqis in 20 raids across central Iraq entered its second day Monday, as U.S. soldiers tried to capture Saddam Hussein's loyalists and curb a wave of attacks on American forces.
"Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse conducted more than 20 simultaneous raids involving attack aviation, armor and infantry forces," the US military said in a statement Sunday.
"Operation Sidewinder is the third in a series of operations ... to root out elements attempting to undermine coalition efforts to restore basic infrastructure and stability in the region," it said.
On Monday, planners of the Fourth Infantry Division — the most high-tech unit in the US army — used an array of electronic tools to plan out further raids on supporters of the deposed regime.
The operation, dubbed "Sidewinder," is taking place across an area of central Iraq stretching from the Iranian border to the areas north of Baghdad, and is inclined to last for several days, according to military officials, quoted by AP.
The region has become "the nexus of paramilitary activity in central Iraq," the military said in a statement.
Lt. Col. Mark Young, commander of the Fourth Infantry Division's 3-67th Armored Battalion, said Monday the operation is allowing the army to focus on a slew of recent intelligence. "It causes all units to focus on a consolidated effort all at once," he said. "The effect is like a hammer being slammed against the bad guys."
On Sunday night, less than 24 hours after Sidewinder's start, two M-1 tanks patrolling a section of Baqouba rife with hostile fire, were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. The near-impenetrable tanks were undamaged and the crews unhurt, but the patrol failed to find the attackers, AP added.
The military said the raids targeted loyalists from Saddam's former Baath Party, as well as "terrorists suspected of perpetrating attacks against U.S. forces and former Iraqi military leaders."
The American forces arrested a man in Khalis, some 70 kms north of Baghdad, suspected of recruiting others to launch attacks on U.S. troops.
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