U.S., Iraqi troops find weapons while searching Ramadi hospital
Iraqi and American troops — including U.S. soldiers deployed from Germany and U.S. Marines — finished searching a hospital compound in Ramadi being used “as a center for insurgent activity,” U.S. officials said Thursday.
The search began around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and was largely wrapped up by around 10 a.m. the same morning, officials said. No injuries were reported during the raid of the Ramadi General Hospital; U.S. officials had expected resistance at the hospital compound.
According to the military, a weapons cache that included bomb-making materials was found in the compound. Hospital services reportedly were unaffected by the search, with the hospital reopening to the public later in the day.
“I am very pleased that the insurgents did not choose to create a fight at the hospital,” Col. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division and all coalition forces in the Ramadi area, said.
“We went there with overwhelming numbers, but with the intention of using the absolute minimum force necessary to clear out any insurgents who may still have been there.”
The building is seven stories tall and had been used by insurgent snipers, officials said. “Credible intelligence reports indicated the hospital was being used as an insurgent safe haven and command center,” a U.S. military release read.
“Iraqi police units are in the process of assuming primary responsibility for hospital security in order to facilitate its return to normal operations in support of all of the people of Ramadi,” MacFarland was quoted as saying.
Iraqi troops from the 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, along with Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment were involved in the raid.
“Since our arrival in Ramadi four months ago, insurgents have used the hospital compound to launch mortar attacks, observe [Iraqi Security Forces] and coalition movement as well as shoot at us from the upper stories of the hospital,” Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, commander of the 3-8 Marines, was quoted as saying. “After many engagements, we have observed the insurgents flee to the hospital to regroup and tend to their wounded and dead.”
Ramadi, a city of roughly 400,000 and the capital of Anbar province, has long been a center of insurgent activity. U.S. troops have in recent weeks established a series of new patrol bases in a methodical expansion of security zones in the city.