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U.S. and Iraqi forces have wrapped up a joint mission targeting eight villages in and around the city of Hawijah, reporting at least 52 suspected insurgents arrested, the U.S. military said Sunday.

Nearly half of those taken into custody in Operation Scorpion were on “target lists” built by the Iraqi army brigade in the area, U.S. officials said. The other half were arrested “for further questioning.”

The operation was planned by the 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, according to U.S. officers.

“This Iraqi army brigade has made tremendous progress in the five months we’ve been working with them,” Col. David Gray, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said in a military news release.

“In October, they were loosely organized and not very well trained. … Their ability to conduct a complex mission in the Hawijah area without suffering or inflicting casualties, demonstrates their professionalism and improved level of discipline.”

It was the second time in two months that the Iraqi brigade planned and executed a brigade-level mission, Gray said.

The raids began around 4 a.m., with U.S. troops from the 1st BCT providing outer security cordons around the villages. Iraqi soldiers moved through the villages while U.S. Kiowa helicopters from the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment provided overwatch.

In “supporting operations” in the village of Mahoos and the neighboring city of Kirkuk, a similar scene unfolded, with 101st Airborne soldiers again providing an outer security perimeter for Iraqi troops.

Those Iraqi troops moved by helicopter into Mahoos, searching for seven targets. They found and detained five of those targets, officials said. In Kirkuk, the Iraqi army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade and the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 1st BCT, arrested another six suspected insurgents.


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