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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade prepare to enter a home during a predawn raid in a neighborhood near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The soldiers apprehended one man who is suspected of knowing about a hidden cache of surface-to-air missiles.

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade prepare to enter a home during a predawn raid in a neighborhood near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The soldiers apprehended one man who is suspected of knowing about a hidden cache of surface-to-air missiles. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. forces on Saturday staged a predawn raid at a small neighborhood within earshot of Baghdad International Airport on a tip that there might be a hidden cache of surface-to-air missiles.

About 160 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Battalion swept through the village, searching house to house, but did not find any weapons.

They did, however, apprehend an Iraqi man who is suspected of having information about a possible cache, said Army Capt. Joel Kostelac, commander of the 2nd Brigade’s Charlie Company.

Soldiers flex-cuffed a former Iraqi Airlines pilot and brought him in for questioning, but troops found no evidence during a house search that the former aviator had any information about a cache of missiles. The man had an outdated coalition ID card.

U.S.-led forces in Iraq have been hunting for hidden shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles that could be used to try to shoot down planes at the airport.

Baghdad International Airport, formerly known as Saddam Hussein International, is the coalition’s main operating base. The sprawling airfield hosts thousands of troops and is a main supply point for the 150,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq trying to rebuild the country and provide security. The United Nations and other international nongovernment organizations also use the airport.

On July 15, a suspected insurgent fired a missile at a U.S. C-130 transport plane as it landed at the airport. The missile blew up before it reached the aircraft.

The neighborhood the soldiers scoured for missiles on Saturday is located within the airport’s heavily fortified walls. The village is home to Iraqis, many of whom work for the U.S. military as contractors and are allowed to live within the airport confines.

Two companies of soldiers went to each of the 120 houses. A bomb-sniffing dog was called to certain homes. The units went through each room, searched every back yard and looked under thick brush.

As the soldiers went from unit to unit, Kiowa Warrior helicopters hovered overhead. Throughout the two-hour search, a Humvee with a large speaker blared a message in Arabic explaining that the soldiers were looking for criminals.

U.S. troops involved in the raid were not optimistic that they would find any missiles.

“You’d have to be pretty slick to slip some missiles into [Baghdad International Airport],” Kostelac said.

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