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A day after fierce sandstorms brought most of Iraq to a standstill, insurgent attacks and U.S. military operations returned Wednesday in several parts of the country.

Marine Corps units involved in Operation Quick Strike — a 1,000-strong Marine offensive in the Euphrates River Valley — did not provide an update Wednesday, a day after finding a car bomb factory in the desert region between central Iraq and the Syrian border to the west.

The operation, at least the sixth in the region recently, was launched after a spate of attacks killed more than 20 Marines last week. U.S. military commanders have said the vast open areas in western Iraq are a major alley for the smuggling of men, money and weapons feeding the insurgency.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials said 3rd Infantry Division soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts destroyed over the weekend a Baghdad house suspected of being used as a storage site for makeshift bombs.

The raid came after “a detainee, captured earlier in the week, provided credible information that the house was purchased as a safe haven for terrorists as well as for storage of weapons and explosives.”

During the raid, U.S. and Iraqi forces found detonators, timing devices and fully-assembled roadside bombs, officials said. An American explosive ordnance disposal team was called to the site and destroyed everything — including the house — in place.

“Several secondary explosions,” an indication of the presence of explosive materials, were reported. No arrests were reported during the raid.

The sandstorm swirling around Baghdad was the worst in years. Iraqi medical officials told wire services that more than a thousand people checked themselves into local hospitals complaining of ailments caused by the flying sand, which buried the noontime sun behind an orange layer of dust.

U.S. military officials also reported the sandstorm caused several operational difficulties, including the grounding of both helicopter and fixed-wing flights throughout the area.


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