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US Offensive Continues in Western Iraq


A senior officer involved in the U.S. offensive in western Iraq says the operation was to continue through Wednesday night, using information gathered in recent days to target suspected insurgent hideouts.

The Chief of Operations of the U.S. Second Marine Division, Colonel Bob Chase, says there was little significant action on Wednesday, as his forces found few insurgents in the area they patrolled north of the Euphrates River, near the town of Ramana. But he expected a busier night.

"We take what we can get when we get up there, and we hit what we can hit. And you never know which one of these is going to prove to be quite fruitful. And we're hoping, obviously, tonight to hit some more significant pockets," Colonel Chase says.

Colonel Chase says his marines are getting good cooperation from local residents, who appear to feel that the insurgents overstayed their welcome in the area. The colonel also confirmed reports Tuesday that some of the insurgents put up a stronger fight than they have in most other situations in Iraq. But he said they have now reverted to their usual tactics of roadside bombs and hit-and-run strikes on U.S. forces.

He also confirmed that there are many foreigners among the insurgents, which he said is not surprising considering that the area is near the Syrian border and is known as a transit route for insurgents and their weapons.

"This is a predominant movement line from Syria into the crossroads north in toward Haditha, and from Hadith, of course, on into Baghdad, Mosul or some of the more metropolitan areas where you're seeing spectacular attacks," Colonel Chase says. "It's needed cleaning out for a long time."

Those spectacular attacks continued on Wednesday. A suicide bomber killed 32 people outside a police and army recruiting center in the town of Hawija. And in Saddam Hussein's home town, Tikrit, a bomb killed 33 people. In Baghdad, three car bombs aimed at police officers killed four people.

U.S. officials say coalition and Iraqi forces are making progress against the insurgency, but they acknowledge it can still carry out as many as 60 attacks a day, some of them extremely deadly.

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