Skip to main content

U.S. Marine killed in Anbar offensive

Operation targets insurgents near Iraq's border with Syria

Marines look over a rooftop at the source of enemy fire during Operation Steel Curtain, in Husayba.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide



HUSAYBA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops fought insurgents house-to-house in a town near the Syrian border Sunday, with one U.S. Marine killed during the latest major offensive in the region.

Marine company commander Capt. Conlin Carabine said between 60 and 80 insurgents have been killed in the assault.

About 3,000 U.S. troops and 550 Iraqis are taking part in the effort, which is aimed at rooting out suspected insurgents and stanching the influx of foreign fighters through a mix of ground maneuvers and aerial attacks.

Another six Marines have been wounded -- three Saturday and three Sunday -- in one of the largest offensives in Iraq since the storming of Falluja last year.

The Marine killed Sunday had entered a house officials believed was used by insurgents. A group of Marines had cleared most of the home, and one found a locked door. As he was breaking down the door to enter the room, someone inside shot the Marine, military officials said.

The death brings the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to 2,047, with 1,600 of those troops killed in combat since the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

After the Marine was shot, his comrades left the house, and the suspected shooter ran up to the roof and began firing at others on roofs of nearby buildings. Marines returned fire, killing the man.

The push, dubbed "Operation Steel Curtain," is the latest in a series of U.S.-led offensives in northwestern Iraq since spring.

The country's sprawling Anbar province, which stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders, has been a major front in the 30-month-old conflict.

The operation comes in the largely Sunni Muslim region in advance of Iraq's parliamentary elections, set for December 15.

Troops participating in the operation came under fire in the same areas where they faced resistance Saturday, including the southwest portion of town.

Bombs found

As they swept through suspected hideouts Saturday and Sunday, the troops found large caches of explosives and bomb-making materials.

Carabine said the fighting Sunday was constant throughout the day, but less intense than Saturday, when the operation began.

U.S. forces have used Hellfire missiles and dropped 500-pound bombs on homes believed to house insurgents. Military officials said about half the buildings gave off secondary explosions, indicating ammunition was stored inside.

The military also has bombed groups of suspected insurgents as they moved around the city trying to set up strongholds and ambush positions.

Marine Lt. Col. Dale Alford said approximately 180 "military-age males" have been brought in for "secondary questioning." Most will be released, he said.

Marine Capt. Brendon Heatherman said troops were clearing every home in central Husayba, looking out for homemade bombs and "bad guys."

Troops found 10 to 12 makeshift bombs hidden in tires, trash and underneath vehicles, and they found caches of weapons throughout the city, he said.

The stash in one house included ski masks, handcuffs, Iraq army uniforms and two anti-aircraft guns, Heatherman said.

Marine Lt. Jeff Starr said a civilian informed the military about a home recently used by insurgents. Inside, troops found weapons and vests similar to those used for suicide bombings.

Outside, they found an upside-down tub covering a large hole -- about 6 feet deep and 6 feet wide -- that contained mortar rounds, homemade bombs, pistols and ammunition cases. They also found a surface-to-air rocket that could take down a helicopter.

Marines Lt. Col. Dale Alford said Saturday troops have faced "pockets of resistance."

"We've had insurgents that were holed up in both schools and mosques that we had to clean out," Alford said.

The military says Husayba has been taken over by insurgents and foreign fighters and used as a command center for operations, including the smuggling of weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq's population centers.

There had been no U.S. presence in the center of Husayba for a year and a half -- only minor operations on the city's outskirts.

Other developments

  • In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, U.S. Army sniper teams killed eight insurgents in three incidents, the U.S. military said in a news release. One sniper team shot and killed "an insurgent digging a hole along a street that historically contained a high number of" makeshift bombs, the statement said. The snipers then killed a three insurgents who exited a taxi between them and the body and "began firing sporadically in all directions."
  • In Baghdad, a remotely detonated car bomb killed a civilian and wounded eight others Sunday, police said. The car, parked in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Nafaq al-Shurta, exploded late in the afternoon with no military target nearby, Baghdad police said.
  • In the southeast Baghdad neighborhood of Salam, gunmen kidnapped the imam of a Sunni mosque, Mohammed Ghisoon al-Azzawi, as he left the Salam mosque after noon prayers, police said.
  • For the first time in 25 years, an Iraqi passenger plane flew to Iran on Sunday, a sign of a new era for the two nations that were long enemies. Since Hussein's ouster, Iraqi and Iranian officials have met and laid the groundwork for new relations, although U.S. officials have expressed concerns that some Iranian extremists looking to push a theocratic state have entered Iraq -- and that some may be behind insurgent attacks.
  • Eleven Iraqi civilians were killed Saturday when gunmen opened fire at a minivan in Diyala province north of Baghdad and east of Baquba, police said. Among the dead were women and children. Police said the driver of the van is missing and might have been kidnapped.
  • CNN's Arwa Damon, Enes Dulami and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

    Story Tools
    Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
    Top Stories
    Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
    Top Stories
    Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
    Search JobsMORE OPTIONS

    © 2007 Cable News Network.
    A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
    Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
    Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
    Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines