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US Forces Use Pre-Emptive Strikes on Guerillas in Iraq

The U.S. military has concluded major operations aimed at capturing militants blamed for attacks on American forces. Some of the largest raids took place in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

U.S. officials describe the latest five-day military operations as preemptive strikes, launched in response to threats made against U.S. troops in Iraq by loyalists of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Operation Soda Mountain targeted holdouts from Saddam's government and assailants suspected of conducting guerrilla-style attacks against coalition forces in Iraq.

Coalition officials are calling the operation a major success. They say 611 people were detained, including 62 suspected former leaders of Saddam's Baath Party.

Coalition forces also confiscated nearly 4,300 mortar rounds, 1,400 rocket-propelled grenades and 635 assault weapons from various places.

Much of those weapons and many of the arrests were made by the Fourth Infantry Division, which played a major role in Operation Soda Mountain.

Most of the soldiers in the division are based in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 175 kilometers north of Baghdad. During Saddam's rule, Tikrit and the surrounding desert were home not only to many of the government's most senior leaders, but also to installations that housed internal security services and some members of Saddam's personal army, the Special Republican Guards.

An officer with the Fourth Infantry Division, First Lieutenant Andrew Sinden, says the military sweeps in Tikrit came as a result of intelligence reports and tips from local informants. The division has begun offering $250 rewards for usable intelligence and $100 rewards for information leading to weapons caches.

Lieutenant Sinden described how a typical raid is conducted, saying, "It's actually a police operation [like] in America. You go and cordon an area off so that no one can run away. You go to the house, enter the house. You take the men with you, search them, hand them off to another unit, which takes them and the intelligence unit talks to them. Then, we search the house. Some houses turn up nothing. Other houses, we've found plastic explosives, rocket launchers, rifles, machine guns, a whole myriad of stuff. A lot of it is buried outside."

It is still unclear how much of an impact the latest military operations will have on reducing attacks on U.S. soldiers.

Three previous operations - Peninsula Strike, Desert Scorpion and Sidewinder - have yielded mixed results. Hundreds of people were detained but many were released for lack of evidence. Large weapons caches were also found but the attacks have continued.

On Monday, a U.S. soldier and his Iraqi interpreter were killed when the military vehicle they were in hit a remotely detonated explosive device and they subsequently came under attack by snipers.

The soldier was the 38th American killed by hostile fire since major combat was declared over on May 1.

U.S. military officials say there are no signs that the attacks are being coordinated on a regional or national level. They have vowed to continue their hunt for assailants and their weapons until the attacks stop.