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U.S., Iraqis Launch Major Attack on Insurgents

MADELEINE BRAND, Host:

From NPR West this is DAY TO DAY. Three months after the elections in Iraq, that country's Parliament hold its first meeting. We'll hear from the man who led that session coming up. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, Host:

Vicky, what kinds of details are you hearing about this from the Pentagon?

VICKY O: The military is calling the offensive Operation Swarmer, and the target is said to be a suspected insurgent operating area in Southern Salahuddin Province. That province is in the Sunni triangle which is the area of Iraq where insurgents have been the most active.

CHADWICK: Any reports yet of insurgents captured or killed?

HARA: I spoke to the multinational force command in Baghdad just a little while ago, and they didn't have any information yet on casualties, or possible suspects being detained. But they did say that the operation, so far, has turned up a number of enemy weapons caches and they said the caches contained artillery shells, explosives, IED making materials. That's for roadside bombs. As well as military uniforms. And a military spokesman in Baghdad emphasized that this is just the beginning of the operation. He says it's expected to go on for several days.

CHADWICK: Aren't these air assaults, a major assault, wouldn't that be pretty unusual?

HARA: And when you're trying to convince the Iraqi people that you're on their side, air strikes can be counter productive. In early January, for instance, there was a U.S. air strike against a building in Baji, a town north of Baghdad. It was suppose to take out three suspected suicide bombers, but Iraqi officials said the strike killed an Iraqi family of 12. And a reporter on the scene wrote that the bodies of three women and three boys were taken from the house afterwards.

CHADWICK: And I've seen reports of another strike north of Baghdad just in the last day that apparently had collateral damage as well. How about Iraqi troops participating in this operation?

HARA: The U.S. Air Force expects to remain in Iraq for quite some time, you know, even beyond the point where the ground forces leave. And the Iraqi security forces have to be trained to deal with the close air support and when to call it on.

CHADWICK: Vicky, thank you. NPR Defense Correspondent Vicky O'Hara. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Vicky O'Hara
Victoria (Vicky) O'Hara is a diplomatic correspondent for NPR. Her coverage of the State Department and foreign policy issues can be heard on the award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition as well as on NPR's newscasts.