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A day after conflicting reports of an insurgent takeover of several streets in downtown Ramadi, U.S. military officials announced the latest in a series of “disruption” operations in and around the embattled Anbar provincial capital.

Operation Shank, or Harba in Arabic, includes some 200 Iraqi army soldiers and 300 U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, the Marines said Friday.

It is the fifth in a series of operations that began in mid-November; previous sweeps have lasted one or two days, with small numbers of suspected insurgents captured or killed.

Several weapons caches have been seized, stockpiles that reportedly included surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, mortar and artillery rounds, grenades, land mines and bomb-making equipment.

The operations are part of an attempt to “set the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election” in Ramadi, the Marines said. Less than 2 percent of eligible voters turned out for the last vote in Ramadi, which has been plagued by insurgent violence for more than two years.

On Thursday, several reports from the city said masked insurgents had taken over parts of the downtown area, operating in the open, setting up roadblocks and posting leaflets claiming the city was under the control of al-Qaida in Iraq.

The Washington Post called Thursday’s incident “a fleeting show aimed at intimidating Iraqi Sunni Arab leaders taking part in dialogue with U.S. Marines in a stronghold of the insurgency.” The Post and other outlets quoted local residents as saying perhaps 200 armed men took part in the action.

But U.S. military officials late Thursday lashed out at the reports.

“The idea that there’s this mass uprising and that insurgents took control of the city is incorrect,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said at a weekly news conference.

A spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division put it in even harsher terms.

“Today I witnessed inaccurate reporting, use of unreliable sources, media using other media as sources, an active insurgent propaganda machine, and the pack journalism at its worst,” Capt. Jeffrey Pool said in an e-mail to several organizations.


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