Thursday, September 06, 2007


26,000 U.S. and Iraq forces go on offensive in n. Iraq

(CNN) -- About 26,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces are taking part in an offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said on Thursday. Iraqis gather at the site of a U.S. airstrike on Baghdad Thursday. Residents said people were killed in their sleep. The operation, Lightning Hammer II, is an extension of an earlier operation in Diyala province.
About 14,000 Iraqi security forces stationed throughout Nineveh province and 12,000 U.S. soldiers are conducting the operation, which started Wednesday evening. The military said the operation "follows Lightning Hammer I ... to deny al Qaeda safe haven in the provinces" of Salaheddin, Nineveh, Diyala, and Kirkuk.
The military said the original Operation Lightning Hammer -- August 13 to September 1 -- ousted militants from the Diyala River valley, northeast of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province. "Al Qaeda cells were driven from Baquba in Diyala due to Operation Arrowhead Ripper in June and July and then pursued in the Diyala River valley during Operation Lighting Hammer in August," Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Task Force Lightning and Multinational Division-North.

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