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US Launchs Major Operation Against Saddam Supporters - 2003-06-29

U.S. troops in Iraq have launched what they call a major operation aimed at rooting out supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

They call it Operation Desert Sidewinder. It is the third military operation aimed at ending the daily attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

A statement from U.S. Central Command says Desert Sidewinder opened with 20 simultaneous raids Sunday, using attack helicopters, tanks and infantry. CENTCOM says its forces have detained about 60 people.

The U.S. military says raids targeted Baath Party loyalists, people suspected of attacking U.S. forces, and former Iraqi military leaders. The U.S. troops are also trying to locate weapons and ammunition caches.

The CENTCOM statement did not say precisely where the raids took place, but it did say that American forces believe paramilitary activity centers on the Tigris River between Saamara and Baghdad.

Coalition military leaders believe their forces have been the target of a coordinated campaign to undermine their operations in Iraq, including the restoration of basic services, such as electricity.

The Iraqi people are growing more and more frustrated with the occupation, and are increasingly calling for the coalition to hand over power to some kind of Iraqi government.

In front of a vegetable stall on a busy street in downtown Baghdad, a small crowd of people makes it clear to a reporter just how frustrated they have become.

One man, who did not give his name, says the Americans have not done anything for Iraqis but occupy their country. He says they have not provided basic services like electricity or drinking water. And, he says, there are murderers and other criminals in the streets. The man asks, "Where is the security?"

The lack of security affected the United Nations on Sunday, when an unexplained burst of gunfire outside U.N. headquarters sent staff diving for cover.

U.S. troops tightened security around several key buildings in Baghdad Sunday, possibly in connection with Operation Desert Sidewinder. For example, U.S. soldiers refused to allow a VOA reporter onto the campus of the University of Baghdad, although it was accessible to journalists just a few days ago.

A number of coalition troops are living at the university, which remains open to students and faculty. Roadblocks and guards posted at the entrances were trying to keep anyone without a university ID off campus.