| WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2007 During ongoing operations south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army, with support from coalition forces, continue to target specific terrorist cells that use the area as a safe haven.
The current operations began Jan. 4, with a combined air and ground assault into the outskirts of Turki village.
Iraqi army and coalition force soldiers established mobile and stationary positions along possible escape routes to isolate the area and facilitate searching the area for weapon supplies, bomb-making material and terrorists.
"The terrorists believe we will not attack them in their safe havens and believe they can use these areas to spread violence throughout the region," Col. David W. Sutherland, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division commander, and senior U.S. Army officer in the Diyala province, said. "The 5th Iraqi Army Division believes that we must continue to take the fight to those individuals that use violence against the Iraqi people for their own personal and financial gain.
The coalition forces will continue to support this Iraqi force," he added.
During the initial hours of the operation, the Iraqi army, with coalition force soldiers supporting, encountered numerous roadside bombs in an attempt to defend these safe havens and slow down the movement of coalition forces. The insurgent efforts were ineffective and the obstacles were cleared.
Additionally, coalition aircraft engaged a number of insurgents in fighting positions, as well as those who were spotted placing roadside bombs along one of the main roads. Several suspects were detained.
"Although the Iraqi army and coalition forces have not encountered heavy resistance as of yet, this operation remains critical for the establishment of a safe and secure environment for the citizens of Diyala," Sutherland said.
So far, what we have found, and the actions of the enemy, is consistent with our expectations. There have been no surprises, and operations will continue based on the goals of the Iraq army and the government of Diyala," Army Maj. Robert Cain, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division executive officer, said. "The Iraqi army and coalition forces are here to capture or kill the terrorists and provide security for the citizens of Diyala.
Because the Iraqi army will soon take full responsibility for securing the province, it is vital the soldiers conduct these types of operations, Sutherland said.
"The morale of the Iraqi soldiers is high and they are continuously showing discipline and professionalism when dealing with the local civilians; this includes men, women and children," Sutherland added. Developing a military force with valid leadership skills comes from training. The Iraqi army is training (and) are
doing very well," Sutherland added.
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)