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New Coalition Offensive Leads to Arrest of Dozens of Insurgents in Iraq

American, British and Iraqi troops are continuing their effort to root out insurgents south of Baghdad, in an operation aimed at clearing the way for elections to be held in January.

Iraqi officials say dozens of insurgents have been captured in an area known as the "Triangle of Death." The latest offensive began Tuesday, with about 5,000 American, British and Iraqi troops combing through small towns south of Baghdad, in the hunt for more insurgents.

A senior official with Iraq's Interior Ministry says dozens of insurgents have been taken into custody since the operation began. The same official says the operation will continue through the week. Troops are conducting house-to-house raids, in an effort to suppress the insurgency, before elections, scheduled to be held January 30.

It is believed many insurgents slipped out of Fallujah, before the American-led assault on that once-rebellious Sunni Muslin stronghold. The latest operation began with troops, backed by helicopters and jet fighters, pouring into an area known as the "Triangle of Death."

British and American forces worked to seal off potential escape routes, while Iraqi forces work to hunt down insurgents. An interior ministry official says the latest raids were in areas that had previously not seen a military presence. He says it is believed many insurgents from Fallujah had moved into small towns south of Baghdad. He says the latest operation is part of a larger plan to move through the entire Sunni Triangle, in an effort to root out insurgents and crush the violence.

The latest military operation follows a call by the Association of Muslim Clerics in Iraq to boycott January's national election, in protest of the invasion of Fallujah and the continuing presence of American troops in Iraq.