Iraqi Troops Flush Samarra of Insurgents, Weapons

By Matt Murphy

Members of the Iraqi Police Commandos head out on a mission as part of an operation to rid Samarra of insurgents and weapons. More than 1,500 members of the Iraqi security forces are involved in the operation.

Photo by Sgt. Matt Murphy, USA / DoD Photo

SAMARRA, Iraq — Iraqi security forces have netted 54 suspected insurgents, several vehicles, a weapons cache with 37 large mortar and artillery rounds, and an assortment of rifles and rocket launchers in the first three days of an anti-insurgent operation.

Sanctioned by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, the operation began March 4 with more than 1,500 Iraqi security forces personnel executing missions under the leadership of Gen. Adnan Thabit, security adviser to the ministry. A police commando brigade, two police commando battalions, a public order battalion and local police make up the security forces contingent.

Officials said this is the ministry’s largest anti-insurgent operation since the battle for Fallujah in November 2004, and it is completely led and executed by Iraqi leaders and troops. A few U.S. military personnel are serving as advisers and observers. Police trainers with the U.S. Department of Defense also are there, watching from the rear as the police commandos sweep the city and surrounding villages.

Several previous missions in Samarra, which has a reputation for being a safe haven for insurgents, only pushed them to outlying areas and they eventually returned, officials said.

“Samarra is the contact point between north and the south of Iraq,” said Adnan, as he is known. “It is also the backyard of Fallujah. The civilians here are satisfied with the operation and now feel more secure,” Adnan said.

Adnan’s presence in the city with the security forces has prompted nonstop telephone calls to his ministry office from citizens either expressing appreciation or offering information about insurgent activities and locations, officials said.

A former Samarra resident, Adnan knows the city and the surrounding area well. With the support of police commando leaders, he laid out a plan for the operation that called for a citywide curfew, and called for the security forces to surround the city and flush the insurgents out. While several Iraqi security forces teams searched house to house in the inner city, other teams hit the villages in a staggered pattern and found several insurgents on a target list.

Col. Jalil, of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, Baghdad Police Commandos, led the village operations. The unit’s members set up traffic checkpoints, where troops apprehended suspects with two rocket-propelled-grenade launchers in the trunk of their vehicle. The troops also confiscated a truck carrying a box of RPGs, small arms, and items commonly used to make improvised explosive devices, such as detonation cable.

One Adnan team captured suspects that led them to a small weapons cache consisting of 23 120 mm mortar rounds and 13 155 mm mortar rounds. Police commandos cleared the area so a U.S. explosives team could destroy the rounds.

“I am very proud of the commandos and honored by the way these men do their jobs,” Jalil said, upon learning of the successful sweeps and the capture of a targeted suspect. Believed to be a sniper who shot at the commandos, the suspect was taken to a detention center for processing.

No deaths or injuries among the Iraqi security forces have been reported to date in this ongoing operation.