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Tuesday, 6-Dec-2005 00:00
2/2 Fox - Stars & Stripes!
Fox got some press! Woo-Hoo! Now if we can find some H&S stuff we'll be good to go! ;-)


Marines scour area around Fallujah for arms
U.S., Iraqi militaries preparing for Dec. 15 elections

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, December 4, 2005

AL KARMAH, Iraq — About 250 Marines rolled out of Camp Fallujah shortly after dawn Friday and moved into a small, poverty-stricken neighborhood for a house-by-house search of an area believed to be an insurgent stronghold.

Supported by fixed-wing aircraft and accompanied by about 25 Iraqi soldiers, the Marines swept through the swath of ramshackle homes about five miles east of Fallujah on the edge of restive Anbar Province.

Two men were detained and no major weapons caches were uncovered in the mostly Sunni village during an operation designed to limit insurgents’ ability to mount attacks in the run-up to the Dec. 15 national elections.

“I’m not surprised we didn’t find anything,” said Capt. Mike Estes, commander of Company F of the 2nd Marine Battalion of the 2nd Marine Regiment.

“We’ve searched through that area several times and we just wanted to go back there to remind them that they still cannot stage weapons in that area.

“And we want to keep insurgents on their heels before the elections.”

The operation is among many expected to unfold across the country in the coming weeks, as U.S. troops and Iraqis prepare for the first nationwide elections to pick a constitutional government.

A security lockdown imposed last year in and around Fallujah has pushed insurgent activity into the surrounding areas, where several small Sunni towns, like this one, have seen a surge in violence.

On Friday, insurgents fired on the Al Karmah police station and a small firefight ensued. No injures were reported.

The day before, one Marine on a foot patrol was severely injured by a roadside bomb. Another roadside bomb exploded Thursday and caused minor injuries. Also on Thursday, insurgents fired on a patrol of Humvees just outside Al Karmah, Marines said.

As the Marines moved through the residential area, a psychological operations truck with large speakers and an Arabic language recording told residents of the search and urged their cooperation.

While Marines provided nearly all the logistical support for the sweep, about two dozen Iraqi soldiers joined them in the actual house-to-house search.

“We’re trying to put an Iraqi face in the operation,” said Cpl. Andrew Harrison, who led a team of Marines through the house searches. “We’re just kind of supervising them.”

In one home, Marines became suspicious of a man whose identification card said he was 19, but who looked much older.

“There is no way this guy was born in 1986,” 1st Lt. Brandon McDaniel said as he spoke to the man and inspected the ID card.

After a further search, Iraqi soldiers found two rifles and six magazines of ammunition. Current law prohibits families from having more than one rifle and two magazines of ammunition per home.

They also found several Iranian-language videotapes and several audiotapes of Islamic religious leaders.

The Marines arranged the weapons, ammunition and tapes and told the man to sit down while they photographed him with the suspicious items. Standard procedure calls for Marines to photograph detainees with whatever suspicious items they have in their possession.

“Here, like this, this looks more guilty,” Cpl. Keith Shampaner said as he told the man to put one of the rifles in his hand.

But Harrison told Shampaner to get out of the way so he could take a photograph. “You don’t have to pose him,” Harrison said.

A woman at the home who identified herself as the man’s sister said the man knew nothing about the guns. She said she was hiding the guns for her other brother, who is in prison.

Also during Friday’s daylong operation, a second man was detained after Marines recognized him as a person seen behaving suspiciously during a previous incident in the area. The man was seen watching a group of Marines and making phone calls from a place where the Marines were later attacked.

The neighborhood searched by Marines was lined with dusty, unpaved roads, and most homes had only cinder-block walls and sparsely furnished rooms.

A nearby Marine camp has taken fire from the neighborhood at least six times in recent months. It lies just off a major route leading north from Fallujah that many Marines refer to as “IED Alley” because of the frequency of roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices.

At one home, a woman said her husband died after the Marines shot him several months ago.

At another, a woman holding a small child on her hip said she did not mind the search.

“They have searched my home before,” the woman, the wife of a car mechanic, said through a Marine translator. “At first it was scary, but now it is OK. The Marines and the Iraqi soldiers are here to help us.”

Andrew Tilghman / S&S
# 1 -Cpl. Keith Shampaner tells an Iraqi detainee how to pose for a photograph with the gun Marines found in his home. Standard procedure calls for Marines to photograph detainees with whatever suspicious items they have in their possession.

# 2 -Marines ride back to Camp Fallujah in a truck after spending the day on a house-by-house search in a neighborhood north of the base.

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