US military kicks off new counter-insurgency operation in Baghdad
BAGHDAD (AFP) Jan 19, 2004
US military officers said they had kicked off a new offensive in Baghdad, called Operation Iron Resolve, aimed at landing a knockout blow against insurgent leaders and financiers in the capital.

"Operation Iron Resolve... is really an offensive operation ... to attack the former regime insurgent cell leaders and the financiers" based on intelligence gathered in the last month, said a senior military officer.

The operation, which also involves the new Iraqi army and the Iraqi civil defense corps, looks to follow up on a flurry of major intelligence coups boasted by the First Armoured Division since November.

The offensive, which kicked off last week, follows hot on the heels of Operation Iron Grip, which saw the division bombard suspected launchpads for mortar and rocket attacks on the US-led coalition's heavily fortified headquarters compound in the heart of the capital.

During that offensive, which kicked off on December 24, the US military said it had inflicted serious damage on four of 14 guerrilla cells operating in Baghdad.

The division's commander, Major General Martin Dempsey, said at the time that a briefcase seized with Saddam Hussein on his capture on a small farm near his hometown of Tikrit contained intelligence on four additional insurgent cells in the capital.

Dempsey said the cells ranged in size between 10 and 100 insurgents, and often contained specialist operational, planning, finance, and logistics units.

"Because of the intel that was exploited ... and lately with some of the findings exploited out of the Saddam capture ... we've been able to put different pieces together that we knew were out there. It started to become more visible how it was working," the US general said.

Despite the massive suicide truck bombing outside the coalition's headquarters Sunday, the US officers hailed an overall decline in attacks in Baghdad from an average of 15 a day in October to between five and seven now.

They said US troops were also becoming more adept at avoiding the roadside bombs and booby-traps favoured by the insurgents, detecting more than 50 percent of them before they could be detonated, largely due to an increase in tip-offs from ordinary Iraqis.