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US Military Ends Week-Long Offensive Against Insurgents

  • Neil MacDonald

The U.S. military officials in Iraq have announced that a week-long operation against militants was over as they confirmed the deaths of nine U.S. Marines in that operation. The U.S. officials say during the operation they have captured 39 insurgents who have what they called "intelligence value".

U.S. ground troops, supported by tanks and helicopters, worked to surround what they believe are insurgent strongholds in a village near the Euphrates River, Saturday. The move to encircle the insurgents is the latest phase of Operation Matador, a sweep across the border region aimed at crushing the followers of Jordanian militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Witnesses say village residents shut themselves indoors as U.S. troops took up positions on the northern bank of the Euphrates.

According to a doctor at a nearby hospital, five people were wounded when a house was rocked by an explosion. The source of the shelling could not be confirmed.

The loss of the four marines brought to nine the number of American dead in the week-old campaign.

Marine commanders say more than 100 insurgents and foreign fighters are believed to have been killed in the campaign.

Operation Matador began last weekend in a western desert area suspected to be one of the main routes into Iraq used into Iraq by foreign fighters, including suicide bombers.

Syria has denied Iraqi accusations that it is allowing guerrillas to enter Iraq from its territory.