By Sgt. Armando Monroig
5th Mobile Public Affairs
BALAD RUZ, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2007 — The U.S. Army concluded a massive, nine-day assault Jan. 13, centered on a series of small villages in the Diyala province that for the past 18 months had been used as a safe haven for insurgents.
During the operation, soldiers from the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment Reconnaissance, 82nd Airborne Division, killed more than 100 insurgents and detained 54 suspected of involvement with terrorism activities in the area, which is located just south of Balad Ruz.
The unit, located at Forward Operating Base Caldwell, also reported capturing six unnamed leaders of an underground organization thought to have ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups hiding in the villages of Turki, Hamoud, and 30 Tamuz.
In outlying palm groves and canals, soldiers found weapons caches containing more than 1,100 Katushya rockets, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, 500 mortars and a variety of bomb-making materials.
Sunni insurgents defended the area with small arms fire, anti-tank mines and improvised explosive devices.
“The effects will be felt just outside this area in places like Baghdad, Baqubah and further out to the west,” said Capt. Stephen Dobbins, the commander of Troop B.
Leaders of the 5-73rd Cav. suspected that insurgents were using the area as a training ground for conducting terrorist activities elsewhere. The villages are an hour’s drive from Baghdad.
Last month, the unit raided the area after finding a large weapons cache there. More than 100 insurgents and two U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting.
This last assault was bolstered by the Iraqi Army and U.S. Army units from forward operating bases in Muqdadiyah and Baqubah. Air Force B-1 bombers and F-16 fighter-bombers dropped bombs on nearby canals and tunnel systems to destroy insurgent defenses before soldiers moved in to secure the area.
Soldiers battled ankle-deep mud as they cleared canals and villages.
The 5-73rd Cav., along with the Iraqi army, is now in the process of setting up a combat outpost in Turki from which to control the area.
“It will be a place where Coalition Forces and the Iraqi army can work jointly to develop intelligence, plan rehearsals, and execute missions out here,” said Dobbins.
The outpost will also be used to facilitate infrastructure improvement projects and strengthen the area’s education system.
“With the outpost, the Iraqi security forces can provide a safe and secure environment for those in the area who want a better opportunity for their families,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Poppas, the commander of the 5-73rd Cav.
Poppas said that his unit has already begun to assist with the repatriation of village residents driven out by a mostly Sunni insurgency.
“The end state is to create a safe and secure region with a continuous Iraqi Security Forces presence,” said Poppas.
“That way, we deny the enemy a safe haven in which they can conduct illegal acts with impunity,” he said. “You can’t let an environment of extremism remain in a free and safe society.”