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Iraq Transition

U.S., Iraqis launch border offensive

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QAIM, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a new offensive on Friday near the Syrian border in western Iraq, killing at least 30 suspected insurgents, the U.S. Marines said.

The purpose of Operation Spear is to destroy a safe haven for insurgents and foreign fighters near the Iraq-Syrian border in Karabila, in the huge, volatile Anbar province, according to the military. About 1,000 troops -- including U.S. Marines and sailors and Iraqi soldiers -- are involved.

Insurgents fired on U.S. and Iraqi forces with small arms, machine guns, rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, the military said. Coalition forces fired tank rounds, machine gun fire and 81 mm mortar rounds.

War planes dropped 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions on insurgent targets and set up an explosive line charge intended to clear routes of roadside bombs and vehicle-borne makeshift bombs.

Two U.S. Marines were wounded when their amphibious assault vehicle struck a mine in the southern part of the city, U.S. military sources said. A medical evacuation chopper carried away three injured civilians, but the wounds are not believed to be critical.

Marines encountered several car bombs rigged to explode as they approached Karabila Friday morning, said Col. Stephen Davis, commander of Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division. The Marines destroyed each bomb in controlled explosions, Col. Davis said.

Karabila, just a few miles from Qaim east of the Syrian border, is the same town in which Marines fought with insurgents about a week ago, on June 11, killing about 40 insurgents, the military said.

The U.S. military suspects there are about 100 foreign fighters in this city of 60,000, Davis said. Many of the civilians have fled the city, including women and children who were seen crossing the Euphrates River early Friday, he said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched several offensives in the area in recent weeks aimed at stopping the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

Earlier this month, an Islamist Web site posted the names of 390 foreign fighters it said have been killed in Iraq.

The site said that the greatest number of foreign fighters came from Saudi Arabia, followed by Syria and Kuwait.

CNN is unable to verify the information, but other Islamist Web sites have posted similar figures.

Iraqi security

Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston said Thursday that coalition troops are learning lessons from two recent deadly attacks involving infiltration of Iraqi security forces.

Suicide bombers made their way onto two Iraqi bases, killing 23 soldiers at a dining facility at an Iraqi army post in Khalis on Wednesday and three Wolf Brigade police commandos in Baghdad on Saturday.

In the Saturday killings, Alston said the attacker was "a murderer who ... had found a way to get credentials ... and then he used those credentials to get the access that he did and to perform that deed."

Regarding the bombing at the Iraqi base on Wednesday, Alston said the bomber was "an impostor wearing Iraqi Army clothes, going into a restaurant, sitting down at a table waiting for more officers to come in so that he could ... cause as much death and destruction as he could."

Alston said the attack "speaks to a need to improve force protection procedures around these facilities."

Other developments

  • A car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque Friday afternoon near Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, authorities said. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the blast ignited two fuel containers and caused significant damage.
  • A New York National Guard sergeant has been charged with killing his company commander and operations officer at a U.S. base in northern Iraq, the military announced Thursday. Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, of Troy, New York, faced two counts of premeditated murder in the June 7 killings of Capt. Phillip Esposito, the company commander, and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, the company's operations officer. (Full story)
  • The U.S. military on Thursday reported the capture of a man described as al Qaeda's leader in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Alston identified him as Abu Talha -- whose actual name is Muhammad Khalaf Shakar -- and said he was captured without a fight on Tuesday.
  • CNN's Jane Arraf and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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