CBSN

U.S. Troops Raid Iraqi City

U.S. Army PFC Maher Chakra (no state given) and Sgt. Ruiz (no first name available) of the 1st Armored Division, countercheck the serial number and other data of an AK-47 found from an Iraqi motorist at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq Sunday June 15, 2003.
AP
U.S. soldiers backed by helicopters and tanks raided homes, rounded up suspects and confiscated weapons in the restive town of Fallujah Sunday as part of a huge nationwide campaign to root out anti-American insurgents who've been stepping up their attacks.

Iraqi families complained of heavy-handed tactics by the 1,300 troops who carried out the raids 35 miles west of Baghdad. Some said troops broke into homes and arrested people with no involvement in attacks on American forces.

Villagers claimed Saturday that five Iraqis killed Thursday on the outskirts of Balad, a rural area 30 miles north of Baghdad, were civilians, including a 70-year-old man. They were apparently mistaken by U.S. troops for militants fleeing after attacking a U.S. tank patrol. Townspeople say the five men were trying to douse fires in their wheat fields set by U.S. flares.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips says, "Already the stories have been circulating -- whether true or not -- that American troops have, to use the local phrase, been 'terrorizing' populations here (in Iraq) not necessarily hostile before. It's an old question: Does heavy-handed military action put down resistance, or create more?"

To defuse animosity, the troops followed up their assault by delivering humanitarian supplies, including school books, medicine and even teddy bears. Major humanitarian deliveries would be made throughout the day Sunday.

No American or Iraqi casualties were reported in the operation involving soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade. The sweep — one of the largest since the Iraq war was officially declared over on May 1 — met no resistance and lasted only three hours.

Fallujah residents had been warned of an impending operation from fellow citizens who blared announcements from mosques' loudspeakers.

Soldiers targeted 16 buildings where intelligence reports showed militia operations were underway or weapons stockpiled for use against U.S. forces.

The operation, called "Spartan Scorpion," was part of a nationwide effort expected over the next few days to seize unauthorized weapons and militants following the end of an amnesty for anyone turning in illegal arms.

The troops arrested seven people from a single location who were suspected of being major figures in the resistance to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

They were found with illegal weapons, bombs, bomb-making materials and illegal communications equipment, said Col. David Perkins, the brigade commander. An eighth armed man was arrested for violating the curfew.

Perkins called the mission successful. "We wanted to focus on the people providing the resources and the command and control, and I think we did that," he said.

The raids across Fallujah began at about 3 a.m., just three hours after a deadline for Iraqis to turn in heavy weapons under an amnesty program.

With OH-1 KIOWA observation helicopters whirring overhead at the outset of the operation, one company of about 100 soldiers searched 12 farm houses in the northwest side of the city. Soldiers rousted the residents from their beds, including women and children sleeping outside in the cool night air.

Hamid Mukhlif, 69, said about 30 armor-backed troops raided the school where he works as a security guard around 3:30 a.m. looking for weapons.

Mukhlif, who sat with dozens of other residents at the mayor's office after the raid, said he was handcuffed, ordered to lie face down on the ground, then told to stand with his face against a light pole.

"They didn't find anything except my rifle, which they allowed me to keep," he said.

Jassim Ali Mohammed, 60, said his house was raided in the middle of the night by some 20 troops who he said handcuffed his two sons and forced them to lie face down on the ground, later taking them away.

He said soldiers also took documents and even some children's school books.

"I'm 60 years old and I have nothing to do with all this. Even Saddam never did a thing like this to us. We got rid of one problem and now we're having a bigger one," said Mohammed, turning his face to wipe away tears.

Within an hour after dawn, the streets of Fallujah were filled with normal traffic, weaving alongside convoys of American Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles.

During the raid, Iraqis sounded sirens and flashed their porch lights in apparent warning to each other that the American troops were coming.

The raid against Fallujah followed an extensive action last week against the so-called "Sunni triangle" north and west of Baghdad. That operation was completed successfully, the military said Sunday.

About 60 of the 400 people detained during that search-and-seizure operation remained in custody for further interrogation, the U.S. Central Command said.

Those in custody included former Iraqi generals of Saddam Hussein's army — Maj. Gen. Abul Ali Jasmin, the secretary of the defense ministry, and Brig. Gen. Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of the Iraqi military academy.

Hoping to offset ill will from the Fallujah raid, a massive delivery of medical and school supplies, food and toys began moving into the town after dawn.

Outside the school district office, an American army truck guarded by soldiers was unloading 2,000 meals of rice, crackers, beans and bread. "We don't need their help. Our homes are full of food," said Khalil Khaneif, an administrator of the boy's secondary school next door.

In other news:

  • Another member of the United States' most-wanted list of Iraqis has been captured. Officials say this prisoner is one of the military commanders seen meeting regularly with Saddam Hussein before the war. Air force commander Hamid Raja Shalah al-Tikriti is from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
  • Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation of their nation are drawing American troops into a new type of war. Remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime have moved from taking potshots at Americans to tougher tactics like ambushes and drive-by shootings. The attacks have become increasingly bold, particularly in the Sunni Muslim strongholds north and west of Baghdad.
  • Experts warn the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. and British forces in Iraq could pose serious health and environmental risks to troops and residents. They say the hazards include severe consequences for kidney function and environmental pollution.
  • Iraqi villagers say five civilians were killed by U.S. forces after an ambush this week. One man says American troops mistook them for fleeing militants who had just attacked a tank patrol. Townspeople say the five men were trying to douse fires in their wheat fields set by U.S. flares.
  • Coalition troops say they foiled an escape attempt by Iraqi detainees at a prison complex west of Baghdad, shooting one dead and injuring seven others. Rock-throwing detainees brandishing metal bars rushed military police guards. One guard was slightly injured.
  • A letter purportedly written by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is warning foreigners to leave Iraq or face death. A copy of the three-page letter, sent to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, was made available to The Associated Press. It warns that a new stage in the Iraqi "resistance" to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq is about to begin.