A beefed-up American and Iraqi force continued to press into western Baghdad neighborhoods on Monday, pushing ahead in the effort dubbed “Operation Together Forward.”

Coordinated operations targeting the Shula and Ameriyah neighborhoods of the capital included searches of thousands of homes and sweeps through business districts. “Security in Baghdad is the top priority for everyone working in Operation Together Forward. We continue to work very closely with Iraqi security forces in a major effort to clear this area of terrorists and death squads,” Col. Robert Scurlock, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was quoted in an Army news release.

Iraqi and U.S. forces “are working side by side every day to increase security in Baghdad and help the Iraqi people return to a more normal domestic life.”

The operations include troops from the 1st AD; the U.S. Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; the Iraqi army’s 1st and 5th Brigades, 6th Army Division; and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division.

“The operations are designed to reduce the level of murders, kidnappings, assassinations, terrorism and sectarian violence in northwest Baghdad and to reinforce the Iraqi government’s control in” Baghdad, the news release read. The operation in Ameriyah included searching more than 4,000 homes and businesses, officials said.

Security in the capital has become a leading priority for U.S. and Iraqi forces as insurgents continue their attacks, and as sectarian death squads foment civil conflict. The 172nd Brigade’s deployment — spent mainly in and around Mosul in northern Iraq — was extended as part of the Baghdad operation, and the remainder of the 1st AD “ready reserve” force in Kuwait also was called into action. The operation is scheduled to last months, U.S. officials have said.

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