New Offensive In Western Iraq - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


New Offensive In Western Iraq

The offensives are aimed at uprooting insurgents who have killed more than 620 people since a new Iraqi government was announced on April 28. The assault, called Operation New Market, focused on Haditha, a city of about 90,000 people, where the U.S. military says insurgents have been using increasingly sophisticated tactics.

Earlier this month insurgents launched a multistage attack from a Haditha hospital, killing four U.S. troops in an ambush that included a suicide car bomber, a roadside bomb, and gunfire from fortified positions in the hospital, which was partially destroyed in the attack. According to initial reports today, three insurgents were killed during fierce gun battles that broke out after U.S. forces entered this town before dawn. Two Marines were also wounded and evacuated.

Marines took over several homes in Haditha, using them as observation and control centers as other troops fanned out through the city's mainly empty streets in an apparent bid to flush any insurgents out. At least one loud explosion rocked the city early this morning, but the source of the blast was unclear. U.S. military officials said the operation is about the same size as a weeklong assault dubbed Operation Matador that began May 7 and targeted insurgent outposts near the Syrian border, where nine Marines and an estimated 125 insurgents were killed.

The latest campaign demonstrates the military's ongoing concerns about insurgents in both small and large cities in Sunni-dominated areas. Haditha has no functioning police force, and U.S. military officials acknowledge that their presence has been light in the city but say Iraqi troops are expected to arrive soon. 

 U.S. officials said they hoped their presence would allow locals to feel safe enough to provide tips to the military. Several other attacks have occurred in Haditha this year, including the April 17 killing of a police chief and the discovery three days later of the bodies of 19 fishermen. U.S. military officials say it's unclear if the fishermen were killed in a tribal dispute or by insurgents.

Haditha lies along a major highway used by travelers moving from western Iraq to major cities such as Mosul and Baghdad in the central and northern parts of the country.

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