Latest operation out to rid Iraq of larger weaponry
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. military forces ramped up checkpoints and patrols Sunday as the two-week weapons amnesty period expired.
The new operation, dubbed “Operation Desert Scorpion,” kicked off at midnight Sunday. Military forces throughout the country are on the hunt for weapons larger than 7.62 mm machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenades and other larger weaponry, officials said.
Under U.S. imposed rules, Iraqis are permitted to keep rifles, such as the popular AK-47s, and handguns for protection, provided those weapons are kept in homes or places of business.
The weapons also must be registered with local officials, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Thomas, a V Corps spokesman. Citizens caught carrying weapons in public without the temporary weapons cards will be detained, their weapons confiscated and they will face fines and jail sentences up to a year.
If weapons are found in cars, the cars also will be confiscated, Thomas said.
The weapons cards are issued to individuals hired in jobs that require them to carry weapons, such as the police force or security details.
Between June 1 and Saturday, locals were encouraged to drop the larger weapons at military checkpoints or local Iraqi police stations — but that call for arms was met with little turnout. While the low turnout was anticipated by coalition forces, it was a disappointment nonetheless, officials said.
In the two-week time span, Iraqi citizens turned in 123 pistols, 76 semi-automatic rifles or shotguns, 435 automatic rifles, 46 machine guns, 162 anti-tank weapons — such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers — 11 anti-aircraft weapons, and 381 grenades and other explosive devices, according to a news release.
With the local Iraqi Media Network journalists on another strike Sunday, U.S. officials depended on loud speakers, interpreters and fliers to get the word out, Thomas said.
Soldiers with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, for example, have increased the percentage of their patrol times searching for weapons, said Maj. Clifford Wheeler, the brigade’s executive officer.
But Operation Desert Scorpion is more than a weapons roundup effort, Wheeler said. It includes programs to rebuild the country, delivery of humanitarian aid, and disposal of unexploded ordnance, he said.