75 Iraqi militants reported dead in U.S. offensive

Monday, May 9, 2005

U.S. Marine uses a metal rod to check a pothole for mines during a convoy from Camp Al Asad to Al Qaim, Iraq, on April 23, 2005.
photo by Cpl. Brian A. Jaques

The U.S. military reports 75 militants dead in an offensive launched Sunday in western Iraq. The offensive was begun with U.S. air support in a desert area north of the Euphrates River in the province of Anbar. There is no word on civilian casualties, if any.

A report by a Chicago Tribune journalist embedded with U.S. forces said the offensive "was seeking to uproot a persistent insurgency in an area that American intelligence indicated has become a haven for foreign fighters flowing in from Syria."

More than 1,000 U.S. and coalition troops supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships attacked villages in and around Al Qaim, near the Syrian border. A statement by the US military said the operation was expected to last several days, and was targeting a smuggling route and hideouts for foreign rebels.

The American Forces Press Service reports: "Coalition forces also destroyed car bombs, bomb-making material and two buildings that contained large weapons caches to include hand- and rocket-propelled grenades."

The New York Times reports an estimate of insurgent casualties at over 100.

Col. Bob Chase, the chief of operations for the Second Marine Division, has said there were "a handful" of marine casualties. The source also reports Chase saying, "The objective is to totally disrupt the safe havens and rat lines that have allowed them to bring those materials across the border. This had been a very secure area for the insurgents."

In a statement made from an Islamist website that could not be confirmed, the Al-Qaeda militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reportedly said, "The adorers of the cross claim to have killed 75 Muslims at Al-Qaim. Once more, they are lying, because lying is their religion," according to Forbes.