River Gate & Iron Fist
Some 2,500 U.S. troops along with Iraqi forces launched their second major offensive in western Iraq in a week Tuesday, sweeping into three towns to take them back from insurgents who had killed Marines there last month.
The assaults in western Iraq aim to put down al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni-led insurgent groups that have waged a campaign of violence aimed at wrecking a crucial Oct. 15 national vote on a new constitution.
The military launched its latest offensive in a cluster of cities in the Euphrates River valley about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. Code-named "River Gate," it was the largest U.S. offensive in the troubled Anbar region of western Iraq this year, the military said. It also included hundreds of Iraqi troops, the largest such contingent of any of the offensives this year.
Airstrikes by U.S. warplanes and dozens of helicopters set off explosions that lit up Haqlaniyah, Parwana and Haditha before dawn Tuesday. Barrages of gunfire also were seen in the night sky. Large sections of Haqlaniyah's power were knocked out. Some of the strikes took out bridges across the Euphrates in the area to prevent militants from escaping over them into the desert.
The military launched a similar offensive on Saturday, 93 miles upriver, by the Syrian border. Operation "Iron Fist," which continued Tuesday, concentrated in the towns of Sadah, Karabilah and Rumana, aiming to uproot al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents who receive reinforcements and supplies from Syria. At least 57 militants have been killed in that operation.