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While U.S. troops set up in Husaybah, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers and Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2 reached the “final phases of clearing operations” in the nearby town of Karabilah, officials said Sunday.

Operation Steel Curtain, or Hajip Elfulathi in Arabic, targeted several insurgent strongholds along the border with Syria, aiming to “restore Iraqi sovereign control … and destroy the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating throughout the al Qaim region.”

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops are taking part in the operation, which began Nov. 5. The towns of Husaybah and Karabilah are about two miles apart.

During the fight through Husaybah, Marine officers have said, some insurgents were reported as fleeing from one town to the other.

“When the Iraqi soldiers and [U.S.] Marines entered Karabilah on Nov. 9, they found the al Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists had hidden IEDs throughout the city, slowing but not stopping the clearing operations,” according to a Marine Corps news release.

Some 19 roadside bombs, three booby-trapped homes and one car bomb have been discovered, officials said. Only one small arms attack has been reported.

U.S. military officials say they will establish bases in the two cities to try and prevent a reoccurrence of previous attempts to rout the insurgents. In many of those cases, the fighters melted away during the offensives but returned when U.S. and Iraqi troops left the cities.

Operation Steel Curtain is part of Operation Sayaid (Hunter), a long-running effort to stop the flow of insurgents from Syria through the Euphrates River Valley and into Anbar province.

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