CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Marines from Regimental Combat Team-2, Iraqi Special Operations Forces and the Iraqi Army concluded Operation Quick Strike, an operation to interdict and disrupt insurgent and foreign terrorist activities in Western Iraq, Aug. 10.
During the operation that began Aug. 3, approximately 800 Marine and Sailors and 180 Iraqi soldiers successfully pushed through the Haditha, Haqliniyah and Barwanah regions disrupting insurgent cells by locating and destroying multiple weapons caches, insurgent safe houses, roadside bombs and a car-bomb factory, as well as detaining a large number of suspected insurgents.
“This is another operation similar to those conducted before that has disrupted the insurgents’ ability to operate freely in the Western Al Anbar region,” said Col. Stephen W. Davis, commanding officer, RCT-2. “The intelligence collected throughout this operation will enable us to better assist the citizens of Western Al Anbar in their quest to participate in the upcoming referendum.”
Early in the operation, coalition forces confirmed that insurgents were using the region as a base of operations and began taking steps to root them out.
The morning of Aug. 5, Iraqi Special Operations Forces directed an air strike on insurgents hiding in buildings outside of Haqliniyah. Marine pilots engaged insurgents who were using these buildings to attack Iraqi forces with small-arms fire.
“This ability of the Iraqi Army forces to utilize air support is an example of the progress being made by the Iraqi military,” said Davis.
While continuing operation in Haqliniyah that same day, Iraqi soldiers and Marines discovered two adjacent buildings with wires running between them while conducting a cordon and search for evidence of insurgent activity. The wires were connected to numerous 155mm artillery rounds scattered throughout both buildings, which were subsequently destroyed.
“Unfortunately, this is an example of how the insurgents and foreign fighters have no regard for collateral damage or the injuries to Iraqi citizens,” said Davis.
M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks also fired on a building in the city that insurgents were using to engage coalition forces with small-arms and RPG fire. Then south of Haqliniyah, an Abrams engaged insurgents armed with AK-47s and RPGs.
These operations to protect the community emboldened local citizens to assist the Marines and ISF in their efforts to provide them with a safe and secure city.
“Unquestionably, our greatest source of intelligence is provided by local citizens who reject the insurgents and look forward to the security and stability that the Iraqi government can provide,” said Davis.
The following day, Marines and Iraqi soldiers located and destroyed three car bombs while conducting another cordon and search operation. A citizen of Haqliniyah informed Marines that three parked vehicles were laden with explosives and ready to be used as car bombs. After securing the area, tanks shot the vehicles with rounds from their main guns, destroying all three and setting off secondary explosions.
As the operation progressed in the city new discoveries were being made in caves just outside of Haqliniyah.
Two weapons caches were found in small caves near the Euphrates River bank. The caves were several hundred meters apart and only large enough to hide a person and a small cache. The first cave contained a RPG launcher, medium machine gun, several assault rifles and bomb-making materials. And the second contained 155mm artillery rounds and a propane tank, commonly used for bomb construction.
Bombs made from similar material were found by Marines in Haditha that same day.
Two roadside bombs were discovered buried alongside the main road south of the city. Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams were sent to each location and conducted controlled detonations of both bombs, a propane tank filled with explosives and two 155mm artillery rounds, preventing any casualties or damages.
“These roadside bombs have taken a significant toll on the insurgent populace. Locals are more eager now than before, to point these out to Coalition forces, and express gratitude when our Marines safely dispose of such devices,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher C. Starling, the regiment’s operations officer.
Two days later in Haqliniyah, Marines and Iraqi soldiers made a number of significant discoveries.
A bomb, made from three 155mm artillery rounds weighing more than 100 pounds apiece, was discovered wired to a desk inside a building within the city. It was determined that the explosives could not be removed safely from the building, so the bomb was destroyed in place.
In Northern Haqliniyah, Marines located a car-bomb factory complete with six vehicles rigged with explosives in varying stages of completion.
Typically, insurgents drive the completed car bombs to populated locations and set them to detonate by remote or at a specific time. Car bombs can also be used by suicide bombers to attack specific landmarks or people.
“The best time to engage SVBIEDs is during the assembly process. Every one we destroy equates to lives saved,” said Starling.
All the rigged vehicles were destroyed and secondary explosions were observed by the Marines.
This was far from the last find for the day.
Marines and Iraqi soldiers also found five roadside bombs in close proximity to one another along a roadway within the city. The explosives were a combination of artillery rounds and improvised bombs. All the ordnance was destroyed in place preventing civilian and coalition casualties and damage to property.
“The integration of Marines and Iraqi Army units has enabled more effective communication with local residents. They now fully understand that our presence will eventually eliminate the source of random violence,” said Starling.
At the close of Quick Strike on Aug. 10, nine car bombs were discovered, three were identified by a local citizen and the remaining six were discovered in an assembly garage; 28 improvised bombs were locate, most planted as roadside bombs but others were rigged to destroy entire buildings; a weapons cache was found in caves along the river and multiple insurgent safe houses had been eliminated.
Thirty-six suspected insurgents had also been detained for further questioning.
“I’m satisfied with the results of the operation as it will unquestionably help create the environment for a successful referendum in October,” said Davis “And there will be more.”