News article: Operation Steel Curtain met with resistance
phoenix80 November 7th, 2005
Operation Steel Curtain met with resistance |
Baghdad - Insurgents armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades battled about 3 500 United States and Iraqi troops on Sunday in the streets of Husaybah in the second day of an offensive to rout al-Qaeda from its stronghold along the Syrian border.
Dozens of insurgents were killed by coalition forces on Saturday. A New York Times reporter on the scene said at least two American service members had been wounded.
Brigadier-General Donald Alston said on Sunday that no US or Iraqi forces had been killed. "We are having contact with the enemy, but we are not meeting stiff resistance," Alston said.
But CNN reported that during one 20-minute firefight in the city centre on Saturday, insurgents had fired at US Marines and Iraqi forces from inside a mosque.
At least two US service members were wounded by sporadic enemy fire down alleyways as US-led forces advanced in the town house by house, searching each one.
The coalition forces sometimes found it hard to spot insurgents hiding in the town's 4 000 homes and called in support from Abrams tanks and fighter jets. The soldiers discovered that many families had fled Husaybah.
The "Operation Steel Curtain" offensive in Husaybah is aimed at sealing off a main route for foreign fighters entering Iraq and was seen as a key to controlling the Euphrates River valley of western Iraq.
The US-led operation, which included about 1 000 Iraqi soldiers, will serve as a major test of their capability to battle the insurgents - seen as essential to enabling Washington to reduce its 157 000-strong military presence.
The US military said three of its soldiers had been killed in other areas of Iraq. One soldier was killed on Friday by small-arms fire south of Baghdad, and another died the same day when the vehicle in his patrol hit a mine near Habaniyah, 80km west of the capital.
The third soldier was killed on Saturday in a road accident.
Those deaths raised to at least 2 045 the number US service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.
US commanders hope the Husaybah offensive will restore control of western Anbar province ahead of Iraq's parliamentary election on December 15 and enable Sunni Arabs there to vote. - Sapa-AP
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