2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi army and coalition troops found 1,129 81 mm high explosive mortar rounds in a cache near the main highway, Route Tampa, leading into Baghdad Feb. 3.
Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and Troop B, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment “Wolverines,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) working together as part of Operation Wolverine Alesia discovered the huge cache, near Yusufiyah, Iraq, just ten miles southwest of the capital.
Acting on a tip from a local national, the soldiers conducted an intentional search of the area which resulted in the largest cache find in 2nd BCT history.
The cache, which was buried in the dirt, was larger than expected. As the Soldiers continued to unearth more mortar rounds, it became evident that this was a major find.
“These mortars rounds are in the configuration to use as improvised explosive devises,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, the 1-89 squadron commander and native of Redding, Penn. “The mortar rounds in this state cannot be used for indirect fire; they are fabricated and stored to be used against the coalition and sectarian enemies as IEDs.”
Suich commented about what the find will do to the terrorist’s capability to harm others.
“We put a significant reduction in the enemy’s ability to emplace IEDs in this area today,” Suich said. “We are pretty sure that these are affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq.”
The area around Yusufiyah has long been identified as an al-Qaeda and former regime safe haven where attacks against Baghdad and coalition and Iraqi security forces.
“This is what we refer to as a weapons supermarket-type cache,” said Maj. Mark Aitken, the 1-89 squadron executive officer and naturalized U.S. citizen from Leicester, England. “The terrorists place a large cache of weapons in one place to draw from. They then pre-position what they draw in many other smaller caches around the countryside.”
During the operation four individuals were detained by the IA for suspicious activity in the vicinity of the cache.
In a subsequent cache nearby Troop C, 1-89 found 20 120 mm mortar rounds, 26 81 mm mortar rounds, four PKC medium machine guns, 8,000 rounds of PKC ammunition, three rifle scopes, 60 fragmentation hand grenades, 50 pounds of home made explosives, 27 boxes of 5.56 mm rifle ammunition and 10 rocket propelled grenade projectiles.
Operation Alesia is a joint operation designed to deny terrorist sanctuary along Route Tampa, the military designation for Iraqi Highway One, leading into Baghdad from the south.
The operation began Feb. 30 and is ongoing.
The operation is named after a roman battle led by Julius Caesar against the Gauls in 52 BC where the conquering force surrounded the enemy at the fortifications of Alesia in modern day eastern France and defeated the defenders through siege warfare. The battle of Alesia marked the turning point in the Gallic Wars.
“Today we took over 1100 IEDs off of the streets of Baghdad,” said Maj. Web Wright, spokesman for the 2nd BCT and native of Annapolis, Md. “This is a really big deal.”
“Not only did we take these weapons off of the streets, 3-4-6 IA is fully integrated into this operation. Last night they found three caches and were actively involved in finding these two.”
The mortar rounds were destroyed during a controlled detonation by the explosive ordnance disposal detachment at approximately 2:35 p.m. The blast could be heard for over 20 miles.
The four detained men are being held for questioning.