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Hunting For Iraqi Weapons Part One

File Image"Soldiers from Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Lewis, Wash., and the 717th Ordnance Company explosive ordnance disposal team, 184th Ordnance Battalion, Combined Joint Task Force Troy, Fort Campbell, Ky., empty a massive weapons cache that was discovered at Saada village, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2007. The cache marks the largest discovery of explosively formed penetrators ever found in Iraq at one location. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr., USAF
by Richard Tomkins
Moustache Island, Iraq (UPI) Dec 29, 2008
Violence is way down in Iraq, but the U.S. armed forces and the Iraqi National Police are continuing to net large quantities of the weapons needed to sustain terrorist attacks and guerrilla war.

In one recent operation, U.S. Black Hawk helicopters nosedived, banked hard to the left and then touched down in an open field. Soldiers jumped out, took three steps and then threw themselves on the ground, letting a vortex of dust and debris stirred up by the spinning props wash over them before they could sprint to a tree line.

It was an air assault -- the second in two days by units of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment -- and ahead of them was five hours of scouring palm groves and fruit orchards on a sliver of land in the Tigris River valley to unearth any hidden arms and munitions caches terrorists could use to roil nearby Baghdad.

The list of bomb materials terrorists use and could be found was long. On it are Iraqi army munitions left over from the 2003 invasion -- mortars, grenades, rockets and artillery shells. And then there are newer imported devices, primarily the explosively formed projectiles from Iran and their components.

With the 40 Americans were about 30 members of the Iraqi National Police and three bomb-sniffing dogs.

"This is one of a series of searches to reduce enemy resources," said Capt. Brian Sweigart of 1-27's Alpha Company. "We're in full court press. The elections are coming up and we need to keep them (extremists) from trying to stir things."

Violence in Iraq is at its lowest in years -- a daily average of 10 attacks of all kinds compared with 180 a day a year ago, according to statistics kept by U.S. forces. In East Baghdad, where between 700 and 800 Shiite extremists were killed during street battles last spring, the daily average number of attacks is now about four per day.

The amount of explosives used in bomb attacks has also decreased, a sign that terrorists are finding supplies hard to come by. U.S. officials said recently that bombs, whether improvised explosive devices or vehicle-borne devices, used 15 pounds or less of explosives compared with the 50 pounds regularly seen in guerrilla attacks that were carried out earlier this year.

"I think the fight we had from March through May certainly is a large contributory factor as to why they (Shiite extremists) are not continuing the operations they were doing prior to that," said Col. John Hort, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in charge of East Baghdad and its surrounding areas. "They've been disrupted and on the defensive more than ever before with all the attrition they took.

"We still search for bad guys, but we've been focusing heavily on their supply operations," Hort told United Press International.

(Next: The secret weapons arsenals that U.S. troops are still discovering in and around Baghdad)

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Feature: Iraq's milestone for new year
Baghdad (UPI) Dec 29, 2008
Iraq reaches a crossroads and a milestone in its post-Saddam history Thursday when it takes full authority and responsibility for the nation's security from American forces.

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