Friday, September 07, 2007

Troops detain 16 suspected Shia extremists

By Sgt. Ben Brody
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div.

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq – In a predawn raid on a large apartment complex in Mahmudiyah, Coalition and Iraqi troops detained 16 suspected Shiite extremist members Sept. 1.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., along with their Iraqi counterparts from 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, conducted the combined air assault and ground operation.
Mahmudiyah’s al-Qa Qaa apartment complex is about a square mile of three-story buildings housing thousands of residents, mainly lower-income Shiites.
After an Iraqi army company commander was killed by Shiite Extremist in Mahmudiyah Aug. 28, U.S. and Iraqi forces have worked together to bring the perpetrators to justice, raiding Shiite safe houses and homes.
Soldiers in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters landed in the darkness and quickly surrounded the target buildings, ensuring no one fled the scene.
A few minutes later, U.S. and Iraqi troops arrived in Humvees and Badger armored troop carriers to search the buildings.
The force swept through the buildings, and brought all military-age males down to a central point for questioning as OH-58 Kiowa helicopters circled the area.
After the males were in military control and a cursory search had been conducted, Soldiers with bomb-sniffing dogs thoroughly cleared the apartments and put evidence into plastic bags marked with the apartment’s number.
Although the dogs did not sniff out any explosives, among the items confiscated were two Iraqi police pistols, 120 Iraqi-style gas masks and an AK-47 assault rifle.
“It was a well-executed mission – we quickly isolated the objective and surprised our targets,” said Capt. Nick Ziemba of Battery A, 2-15 FAR. “The Iraqi soldiers have made great progress acting professionally and getting the job done.”
Ziemba, from Wilbraham, Mass., said his unit has a good rapport with the Mahmudiyah soldiers and that they are growing together as a joint force.
“By operating alongside us, they pick up a lot of our tactics, while we pick up on their cultural knowledge,” he said. “They remind us that we’re not always dealing with the enemy – a lot of the people in Mahmudiyah are becoming familiar, friendly faces.”
After 16 suspected Shiite extremists were identified by informants and Iraqi troops, the rest of the men were released to their apartments.
“One of the guys we picked up today is wanted for multiple murders and forcing people from their homes,” said Capt. Dustin Walker, intelligence officer for 2-15 FAR. “Within two hours of the operation, I received five phone calls from Iraqis asking us not to release him. The people of Mahmudiyah do not support Shiite extremists and just want to live in peace.”
The 16 men detained were taken into Iraqi army custody for further questioning.

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