More than 600 Multi-National Division Baghdad soldiers and 550 Iraqi security forces began a clearing operation in the eastern Baghdad district known as Sadr City today, military officials reported.
Meanwhile, operations in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq over the last few days have resulted in numerous terrorists being killed or detained and the discovery of large weapons caches.
In Sadr City, soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, with two Stryker companies from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, began their combined clearing operation
early this morning, teaming up with the 8th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, and the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division.
"During operations today, local residents were receptive and cooperative with coalition and Iraqi forces," Army Lt. Col. Scott R. Bleichwehl, Multinational Division Baghdad spokesman, said. "The operation is designed to set secure
conditions for the citizens of Sadr City."
Bleichwehl said no weapons caches were reported or suspects detained. He added there were no incidents of violence, and no casualties to coalition forces, Iraqi security forces
In other news from Iraq, a coalition assessment following an air strike in Arab Jabour yesterday led to the rescue of four Iraqi citizens and the uncovering of a terrorist weapons cache today.
Four Iraqi citizens were liberated from a building near the site of yesterday's air strike, officials said. One of the hostages told military officials the terrorists holding them fled immediately after the air strike.
All four hostages were treated at the scene for various injuries. One of the hostages said he had been held captive for 50 days.
At the site of the air strike, ground forces also found remnants of an anti-aircraft heavy machine gun known as a DShK, as well as rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers. A DShK tripod was found dug into the ground along the Tigris River, along with spent ammunition
Coalition forces called in the air strike yesterday after they began receiving small-arms fire from several armed men across the Tigris River and were unable to safely subdue enemy fire. Two precision-guided bombs destroyed a small structure and killed seven terrorists hiding inside.
A large secondary explosion was noted after the initial bombs were dropped on the target, officials said, indicating the presence of explosive material within the structure.
Elsewhere, soldiers from Task Force 1-319 and the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, detained more than 50 insurgents during three days of operations focused on terrorist cells in Abu Ajeel, Wynot, and Owja near Tikrit in Salah ad Din.
Paratroopers from Task Force Loyalty's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, detained more than 40 personnel in the Abu Ajeel area with assistance from an Iraqi emergency services unit and the Iraqi army.
The operation disrupted a roadside-bomb cell that has been operating in the area as well as detaining an insurgent cell leader who has been spearheading attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces in recent months, officials said.
Soldiers from Task Force Loyalty's Battery B detained more than 10 insurgents involved with financing and executing attacks on coalition forces in the towns of Wynot and Owja. During the raids, members of Battery B engaged numerous
insurgents, killing three who were poised to conduct a roadside ambush on coalition forces during the operation.
This morning, coalition forces detained three suspected terrorists during a raid in Baghdad.
The targeted suspected terrorist was detained on the scene, and is reported to be involved in the procurement and distribution of weapons, including explosives to conduct bomb attacks against Iraqi citizens and coalition forces.
While conducting the raid, coalition forces entered a mosque where the targeted suspect was hiding. They detained the targeted suspect along with two other suspected terrorists.
A local Iraqi woman was injured. Coalition medical personnel treated her at the scene, and she was transported to a local hospital for further care.
"Coalition forces soldiers respect the sanctity and holiness of all places of worship and exercise the utmost restraint when planning for and considering the conduct of operations in and around mosques," Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said. "We do not enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force. Mosque entries occur only as a last resort, and only when substantial and credible evidence shows insurgent activity is occurring there - i.e., meetings, storage of weapons, harboring of insurgent leaders."
In Basra today, special Iraqi army forces, with coalition advisors, captured an alleged weapons smuggler and trafficker.
The suspect reportedly funnels weapons and homemade bombs to rogue elements for use in attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces. Iraqi forces captured the alleged trafficker without incident.
In Babil province on March 2, an Iraqi special weapons and tactics team, in conjunction with coalition advisors, captured the suspected leader of a rogue militia cell.
The suspect allegedly controls a roadside-bomb cell responsible for attacks against Iraqi civilians and coalition forces. He also is implicated in six roadside attacks that have resulted in the deaths of three coalition forces soldiers since December and is involved in the murder of Iraqi civilians working with coalition forces.
Iraqi forces detained five additional suspected cell members for questioning.
In Fallujah, the Iraqi police captured three suspected members of an al Qaeda-linked insurgent network during operations with coalition advisors March 2.
One suspect is believed to have participated in a recent attack on the Saqlawiyah police station. The other suspects are implicated in recording insurgent attacks against coalition forces on video and selling them to an Iraqi television station. The videos are broadcast to support al Qaeda's effort to recruit more insurgents and incite attacks against Iraqis civilians and coalition forces.
Iraqi forces detained one additional suspect for questioning.
South of Baghdad on March 2, paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, located an ammunition cache containing more than 100 mortar rounds near Bahbahani while on a dismounted patrol.
The cache also contained 60 mm mortar rounds, 82 mm rounds, 120 mm rounds, 122 mm round, 130 mm rounds and 155 mm rounds. The cache was secured for a controlled detonation.
Another weapons cache was discovered the same day as the result of a tip from a resident of the western Baghdad district of northern Ghazaliya.
Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment conducted an early morning raid but found nothing at the target house. However the troops investigated the house next to it and found automatic weapons, a pistol, a hand grenade, and a large amount of ammunition. Roadside bomb-making materials also were found inside the house.
Two men who were in the house were taken into custody for further questioning.
The cache was discovered within sight of the Joint Security Station in Ghazaliya. The station is an integral part of the new security plan, officials said. It is jointly run by Iraqi and American forces, and, in the few weeks it has been operational, has been credited with several success stories, including a significant reduction in violence in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Following the discovery of a massive weapons cache Feb. 26 near the village of Maalef, Iraqi army soldiers from the 2nd Iraqi Army Division, supported by the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment troops, discovered more illegal weapons near the village of Tortia on March 1.
The cache was found inside two large freezers and four large barrels, and contained rounds of assorted small-arms ammunition, rockets, mortar rounds, fuses, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, grenades, projectile fuses, mortar tubes, high-explosive rounds, smoke rounds, TNT blocks, blasting caps, propellant and communication gear.
Coalition forces explosive ordnance disposal teams were on site conducting an assessment of the find and preparing the items for transportation and eventual reduction.