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Mideast edition, Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The U.S. military has launched a wide-ranging offensive in Iraq aimed at both Shiite militias and the Sunni-led al-Qaida in Iraq, officials announced Monday.

Operation Phantom Strike, as the offensive is being called, “consists of simultaneous operations throughout Iraq focused on pursuing remaining [al-Qaida in Iraq] terrorists and Iranian-supported extremist elements.”

A military release billed the operation as on par with the current Baghdad security plan and other operations north of the capital.

Those operations denied “safe havens, disrupted extremist support zones and supply lines, captured or killed significant … extremist leaders, and liberated large segments of the Iraqi population from [al-Qaida in Iraq],” the release read.

Phantom Strike will involve American and Iraqi troops, officials said, though little information was released on where the offensive would take place.

“My intent is to continue to pressure AQI and other extremist elements throughout Iraq to reduce their capabilities,” said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps — Iraq and the day-to-day commander of U.S. troops in the country.

In recent weeks, U.S. military officials have claimed growing success against both Sunni groups and Shiite militants allegedly supported by Iran. The Iranian government repeatedly has denied financing or training the militias, which have been accused of running death squads.

The Shiite-led Iraqi government has also been criticized in recent months for not doing enough to crack down on the militias.

Amidst all that, the U.S. military reported has some of its greatest successes in areas like Anbar province, where Sunni tribes have vowed to fight al-Qaida in Iraq and other groups.

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