Operation Iron Fist aimed at the Syrian border has begun:
CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq ? A force of approximately 1,000 Marines, Soldiers and Sailors from Regimental Combat Team-2 launched an operation against a known terrorist sanctuary in the western al Anbar province town of Sadah, in the al Qaim region approximately 12 km. from the Syrian border.
Operation Kabda Bil Hadid, or Iron Fist in English, began in the early morning hours in order to root out al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in the area and to disrupt terrorist support systems in and around the city.
For the past several months, terrorists within Sadah have escalated their intimidation and murder campaign against the local populace and city government officials. The resulting effect was an increased ability to move freely within the area and a base for them to launch attacks against innocent civilians, Iraqi Security forces and Coalition forces.
By interdicting foreign fighters flowing in from the Syrian border, the operation will also serve as a way to provide security for the upcoming referendum.
Bill Roggio has a wrap-up of the first day:
The first day of Operation Iron Fist concludes. Eight terrorists are killed during separate engagements and one is captured – a potential source of intelligence on the enemy’s infrastructure and defenses in the town. Multiple car bombs are destroyed. Airstrikes, infantry and armor were utilized during the day’s fighting. The fighting appears to be occurring at the perimeter of the Sada, and the insurgents are either attempting to flee the assault or are attacking the Marines head on. No Marine casualties have been reported. Captain Patrick Kerr sends a roundup of the day’s fighting:
Coalition Forces, including helicopters from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, engaged and killed eight armed terrorists in fighting early in the day.
During another engagement, insurgents drove two vehicles in the vicinity of a Marine position, dismounted and began to attack with small-arms fire. One of the vehicles was found to be rigged with explosives. The gun battle left four terrorists dead. The fifth surrendered to the Marines.
In the late morning, Marines discovered and destroyed a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Sa?dah. Shortly afterwards, a M1A1 Main Battle Tank?s destroyed a vehicle car bomb with one round from its main gun southwest of the city. North of Sa?dah, U.S. Forces killed three Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists after the group attacked their checkpoint with small-arms fire.
The eighth insurgent was killed when an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter destroyed a vehicle after its driver fired on a Marine position with a rocket-propelled grenade. Another vehicle traveling with the attacker was seen to be carrying additional RPGs and was subsequently destroyed by missile fire from the Cobra. The driver and passenger escaped the blast.
The most interesting aspect of Captain Kerr’s report occurs at the end of the update:
The goal of the operation is to root out Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating within the area and disrupting insurgent support systems in and around Sa?dah. The offensive is part of an overall operation called Sayaid (Hunter), which is intended to deny Al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate freely in the Euphrates River Valley and to prevent the terrorists from influencing the local population through murder and intimidation.
As stated earlier today, Operation Iron Fist is “an opening feint in a larger operation designed to clear the Qaim region of al Qaeda and the insurgency and move in Iraqi forces to establish security.” That larger operation is indeed Hunter. Here is the overview for Operation Hunter.
Operation Hunter is designed to bolster the U.S. and Iraqi presence in the western Anbar region from Qaim to Haditha. Sayaid will add several U.S. battalions and Iraqi battalions to the region, as well as add several hundred Iraqi border guards along the Syrian border. Iraq’s 7th Army Division will provide for permanent security in the region. The focus is gaining control of the small towns and cities along the western bend of the Euphrates River where al Qaeda has established networks and safe houses.