Sadah is a village of about 2,000 people on the banks of the Euphrates River about eight miles from the Syrian border in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The isolated community has one main road and about 200 houses scattered over a rural area.

Two cars full of families, who fled the violence to spend the night in the desert, were hit at night killing all, including three children under the age of ten.

“Operation Iron Fist” in the town of Sadah near the Syrian border replaces the Tal Afar campagne named: “Operation Restoring Rights”.

Tal Afar, insurgents escaped before offensive by American Forces.

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New Precision MLRS Helps In Battle For Tal Afar - Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System was first test-fired outside of the U.S. earlier this summer near Tikrit, Iraq.   

More to follow below the fold »»
My previous diary —
Tal Afar campagne and brutal suicide car bombings that followed in Baghdad – 180 killed.

U.S. Launches Military Offensive in Iraq

QAIM, Iraq – About 1,000 U.S. troops, backed by attack helicopters, swarmed into a tiny Iraqi village near the Syrian border Saturday in an offensive aimed at rooting out fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq, the country’s most feared militant group, the military said.

The assault, the latest in a series of major operations this year by U.S. forces in the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency, targeted the village of Sadah, which the military said was a base for al-Qaida militants and foreign fighters entering from Syria.

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Instead of flowers :: Iraqi youngsters shout while holding the remains of an US military vehicle destroyed by a road side bomb in Ramadi - Sunni triangle - today.  AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

U.S. warplanes and helicopters launched strikes on targets in Sadah, sending smoke billowing into the sky, residents contacted by The Associated Press said.

The force — made up mostly of Marines, but also with soldiers and Navy sailors — rolled into the village in the morning and gunfire was heard, said a correspondent for CNN embedded with the troops. Helicopters fired on three suspicious vehicles along the way, two of which turned out to be carrying suicide bombers and the third was being loaded with weapons, CNN reported. [embedded journalist – Oui]

Sadah is a village of about 2,000 people on the banks of the Euphrates River about eight miles from the Syrian border in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The isolated community has one main road and about 200 houses scattered over a rural area.

The offensive, named Operation Iron Fist, aimed to root out al-Qaida militants who have taken hold of the village and use it as a base for attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces, the military said in a statement.

It also aimed to stop foreign fighters from entering the country from Syria and improving security in the region before Iraq’s Oct. 15 referendum on a new constitution, the military said. Sunni insurgents have vowed to derail the referendum and have launched a surge of violence that has killed at least 200 people — including 13 U.S. service members — in the past six days.

Update [2005-10-1 11:55AM PST by Oui]:

Marine Travis Williams Mourns 11 Friends Killed in Euphrates River Valley

By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writer

HADITHA DAM, Iraq Oct. 1 — Cpl. David Kreuter had a new baby boy he’d seen only in photos. Lance Cpl. Michael Cifuentes was counting the days to his wedding. Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem had just celebrated his 20th birthday.

Travis Williams remembers them all — all 11 men in his Marine squad — all are now dead. Two months ago they shared a cramped room stacked with bunk beds at this base in northwest Iraq, where the Euphrates River rushes by. Now the room has been stripped of several beds, brutal testament that Lance Cpl. Williams’ closest friends are gone.

For the 12 young Marines who landed in Iraq early this year, the war was a series of hectic, constant raids into more than a dozen lawless towns in Iraq’s most hostile province, Anbar. The pace and the danger bound them together into what they called a second family, even as some began to question whether their raids were making any progress.

Now, all of the Marines assigned to the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, based in Columbus, Ohio, are gone — except Williams. They died in a roadside-bomb set by insurgents on Aug. 3 that killed a total of 14 Marines. Most members of the squad were in their early 20s; the youngest was 19.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams right takes a break alongside Capt. Christopher Toland, Sgt. Don Owens, and unidentified Marines during an offensive in the city of Haditha in western Iraq on May 29. The Marines from the Columbus, Ohio-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, who suffered 16 deaths during their tour, are scheduled to return to the United States in the coming days.   AP Photo/Antonio Castaneda

The August operation began like most of the squad’s missions — with a rush into another lawless Iraqi city to hunt insurgents and do house-to-house searches, sometimes for 12 hours in temperatures near 120 degrees.

On Aug. 1, six Marine snipers had been ambushed and killed in Haditha, one of a string of cities that line the Euphrates, filled with waving palm trees. Two days later, Marines in armored vehicles, including the 1st Squad, rumbled into the area to look for the culprits.

Like other cities in this region, Haditha has no Iraqi troops, and its police force was destroyed earlier in the year by a wave of insurgent attacks. Marines patrol roads on the perimeter and occasionally raid homes in the city, which slopes along a quiet river valley. Commanders say insurgents have challenged local tribes for control and claim Iraq’s most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, once had a home here.

The combat was certainly not what the 21-year-old Williams had expected. “I didn’t ever think we’d get engaged,” said the soft-spoken, stocky Marine from Helena, Mont. “I just had the basic view of the American public — it can’t be that bad out there.”

In some sweeps, residents warmly greeted the Marines. But in others, such as operations in Haditha and Obeidi near the Syrian border, the squad members met gunfire and explosions. In the Obeidi operation in early May, another squad from Lima Company suffered six deaths. Williams himself perhaps saved lives, once spotting a gunman hidden in a mosque courtyard.

The squad had worries the Aug. 3 mission was too predictable for an enemy that knew how to watch and learn. “I had concerns that the operation was hastily planned and executed, with significant risks and little return,” Toland said.

“They are totally complacent with what’s going on here,” said Maj. Steve Lawson of Columbus, Ohio, who commands Lima Company. “The average citizen in Haditha either wants a handout, or wants us to die or go away.”

In a war where intelligence is the most valued asset, the Marines say few local people will divulge “actionable” information that could be used to locate insurgents.

Some Iraqis apparently fear reprisal attacks from militants. Many just want to stay out of the crossfire. Others hate the Americans enough to protect the insurgents: Marines say lookouts in cities would often launch flares as their vehicles approached.

In this region ruled by Sunni tribal loyalties, few voted for the new central Iraqi government, and many suspect the U.S. military is punishing them and empowering their longtime rivals, the Shiites of the south and the Kurds of the north.

“From a squad leader’s perspective, the intelligence never helped me accomplish my mission,” said Sgt. Don Owens, a squad leader in Lima Company from Cincinnati, who fought alongside the 1st Squad throughout their tour. “Their intelligence is better than ours.”

Sunni triangle


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