Marines assist in raids on Haditha insurgents
HADITHA, Iraq — U.S. Marines and Iraqi police rounded up about 20 suspects during a two-night operation dubbed Backbreaker II, aimed at detaining insurgents and remaining members of a roadside bomb-making cell in this Euphrates River city.
Acting on information from Iraqi police and a local source, Marines alongside Iraqi policemen searched roughly a dozen Haditha homes Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the city’s Wadi Hamza neighborhood. In one home, the men found a photo album with pictures of a man aiming what appeared to be an air rifle while proudly crouched in firing positions.
The Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, have experienced the dangers of sniper fire and roadside bombs since arriving in the Anbar province city in September.
“A lot of people in the company have had friends hurt pretty bad or killed,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Mills, 20, of Stovall, N.C. “We just want to get the bad guys off the streets.”
After Tuesday night’s raids, Mills, a Marine paralegal who was one of the first to enter the homes, dutifully filled out paperwork on each detainee the following morning.
The Marines were reminded of the dangers in Haditha on Wednesday afternoon, when an insurgent fired a few bullets at the house where the Marines were temporarily operating. No Marines or Iraqi police were hurt in the brief incident. Marines took up firing positions on the roof, and Iraqi police donned ski masks to prevent anyone from learning their identities and seeking revenge.
“These guys are sacrificing a lot for their city,” said 1st Lt. Nick Guyton, 27, of DuBois, Pa., Company E’s executive officer.
Operation Backbreaker II was a follow-up mission after late January’s Operation Backbreaker I, in which 17 suspects were detained in two nights of targeted raids. During Backbreaker I, three brothers suspected in a roadside bomb-making cell were apprehended.
At one point, recruiting Iraqi policemen was near impossible following the mid-2004 murder of several Iraqi police by insurgents at a Haditha soccer field. But the recent growth of the Iraqi police in Haditha has made operations such as Backbreaker I and II possible.
“The Iraqi police play 100 percent of the role,” Guyton said. “All the intelligence we use for these missions is driven by them.”