The U.S. military says the massive airstrike it launched on Thursday was a success. The attack was directed against suspected al-Qaida in Iraq weapons depots outside of Baghdad. VOA's Deborah Block has details from the Iraqi capital.
Military officials say U.S. bombers and fighter jets dropped a total of 48 bombs on 47 targets used by insurgents to store weapons. The airstrike was one of the largest in the war. Officials say the attack destroyed what they describe an an insurgent "defensive belt" around Baghdad. The attack in Arab Jabour, just south of Baghdad, is part of a large-scale operation launched this week against al-Qaida in Iraq by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
U.S. Army Colonel Terry Ferrell says targeting the insurgent's weapons is key.
"In the process of these strikes, in the process of these on-going operations, we erode those resources, deny them the ability to go to any location to have that capability or that fighting element and that is where we move forward," he said.
The U.S. military says there were no civilian casualties in Arab Jabour, and it is not yet known how many insurgents were killed.
Colonel Ferrell says most of the insurgents have now left Arab Jabour and coalition forces are moving into areas that they had not been in for months, even years.
Ferrell said members of the so-called Awakening Council movement provided much of the information used to locate the weapons caches. The movement is made up mostly of Sunnis, who had once supported al-Qaida in Iraq, and now have allied themselves with the United States. Ferrell says U.S. forces are relying on them to help stabilize the region and maintain security.
"They show us where the IEDs are - the improvised explosive devices," he explained. "They tell us who is new to the area. They tell us who, potentially are the insurgents."
Ferrell said a number of insurgents from Arab Jabour have fled to the southwest, and this is where American troops will next take the fight.