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U.S. and Iraqi forces Tuesday launched the latest in a series of large-scale offensives aimed at insurgents in the vast western stretches of Iraq, military officials said.

Operation Saif, named after the Arabic word for “sword,” includes some 1,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2 and is aimed at rooting out fighters and their supporters in the towns of Hit and Haditha.

An infantry company of around 100 Iraqi Security Forces soldiers is participating in the raids, U.S. military officials said.

Both towns, along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad, have been called havens for militants, particularly those who have crossed from Syria. Saif is at least the fourth assault in the area in recent weeks.

“Operation Saif builds upon the successes of Operations Romhe (Spear), Matador, New Market and River Sweep,” the U.S. military said in a statement from Baghdad.

At the end of those prior operations, the U.S. military declared each a success, listing the number of suspected insurgents killed or captured, the number of car bombs destroyed and the number of U.S. casualties, if any.

But after Romhe and Matador, some Marine officers were quoted by embedded media as wondering how effective the raids were. After each operation, officials from the Multinational Force-Iraq headquarters in Baghdad said the areas would be the target of future offensives.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said the vast deserts of western Iraq are used by insurgents to smuggle additional insurgents, weapons, cash and documents across Syria’s border.


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