An elderly Iraqi woman cries and waves a white cloth attached to a stick as U.S. soldiers detain men in a raid on a Ramadi house early Wednesday.

An elderly Iraqi woman cries and waves a white cloth attached to a stick as U.S. soldiers detain men in a raid on a Ramadi house early Wednesday. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

RAMADI, Iraq — U.S. soldiers detained five men in pre-dawn raids Wednesday in Ramadi, using darkness and the early hour to make the arrests without resistance.

The soldiers, from Company B, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, scaled a courtyard wall and entered the houses around 4 a.m., looking for specific men they suspect of conducting attacks and aiding insurgents in the city.

Soldiers identified one of the men as their primary target, immediately separating him from the other men and women found in the houses. Later, on instructions from their commanders, the soldiers detained four more men found in the same house.

While soldiers inside sorted out the situation, engineers and other teams searched the buildings and yards for suspected weapons caches. Other than cellular phones and lists of contacts — which soldiers thought could be insurgent cells — nothing else was found.

While the troops secured the detainees with plastic cuffs and fashioned blindfolds from rolls of toilet paper and duct tape, the women in the house sobbed and asked for the men to be released.

One elderly woman, who said she was the wife of one of the men and mother of a couple of the others, huddled in a doorway crying, waving a white cloth attached to a stick. Her daughter stood above her, trying to calm her.

The entire operation lasted just more than an hour, with the troops returning to their bases just as the earliest calls to prayer were sounding in mosques throughout town.

U.S. troops have been undertaking targeted raids in Ramadi in the days leading up to Sunday’s elections, hoping to disrupt insurgent cells before they have a chance to attack. Intelligence officials from 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which commands the troops in Ramadi and deployed from South Korea to Iraq last fall, have said several cells are operating in and around the city.

The cells have different tactics and goals, officials have said, but share one common purpose: to intimidate Ramadi citizens into staying away from the polls. In recent days, U.S. and Iraqi joint patrols have gone from house to house encouraging residents to participate.

The job of securing polling sites, which U.S. officials said would begin by midweek, will be split between the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and thousands of U.S.-trained and supported Iraqi forces. U.S. officials have said a reconstituted and independent Iraqi security force would allow U.S. troops to return home.

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