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unhappycamper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 05:12 AM
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Raids target militants linked to May ambush
Raids target militants linked to May ambush
By Kim Gamel - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Nov 16, 2007 20:01:21 EST

BAGHDAD Hundreds of American and Iraqi troops backed by helicopters descended Friday on a remote desert area southwest of Baghdad to root out al-Qaida in Iraq and search for two U.S. soldiers missing after a deadly insurgent ambush six months ago.

Acting on intelligence, the soldiers dug with shovels through heaps of sand and went house-to-house after a dramatic pre-dawn air assault into two Sunni villages near the boundary with Anbar province.

U.S. officers said there was no sign of the missing soldiers but stressed it was only the first day of the operation dubbed Marne Courageous, which also aimed to establish a long-term presence west of the Euphrates River in a former al-Qaida stronghold.

Col. Dominic Caraccilo, the commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said his troops were taking advantage of anti-al-Qaida sentiment among Sunnis that the military says has played a major part in reducing the violence in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

The more safe it gets, the easier it is for us to move around and the more we can interact with the populace, Caraccilo said in a telephone interview. The more we can interact with the populace, the more they will tell us things.

The raids began about 4 a.m. after two Chinook helicopters and eight Black Hawks making multiple runs dropped more than 600 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers into the villages of Owesap and Betra, about 15 miles southwest of the Iraqi capital.

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