Dozens of sites, thought to be hideouts for suspected guerillas, were targeted by the U.S. military. At least six alleged insurgents were killed, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. forces also fired a satellite-guided missile carrying a 500-pound warhead at a target 10 miles south of Tikrit, a suspected haven for guerillas. From Sunday night to early Monday, U.S. forces had carried out 38 attacks in Tikrit, destroying 15 suspected safehouses, three training camps and 14 mortar firing points, according to Lt. Col. William MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.
“Clearly, we’re sending the message that we do have the ability to run operations across a wide area,” said MacDonald. “We have overwhelming combat power that we will utilize in order to go after groups and individuals who have been conducting anti-coalition activities.”
Tikrit is not the only place U.S. forces have cracked down on insurgents.
In the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, soldiers arrested a leader of the Fedayeen guerillas, a group responsible for ambushing and attacking U.S. troops. A statement from the military described the captive, Kazim Mohammed Faris, as a “high value target.”
U.S. military officials hope the crackdown will disrupt the network of insurgents that has been blamed for several attacks, including the incident on Saturday in which a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter came under enemy fire and collided with another helicopter, killing 17 soldiers and wounding five.
Residents in a middle-class area of Baghdad grew angry as soldiers embarked on one of the largest weapons searches to date. Many of the residents said they needed the weapons for protection in a city plagued by violence.
In one of the “cordon and search” raids conducted early Monday, U.S. forces apprehended 21 suspects, 30 Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles, about a dozen shotguns and 10 handguns. Many of the suspects violated a coalition rule that allows only one AK-47 per house.
The U.S. military’s increased force in past days comes at the same time that the U.S.-led coalition agreed to transfer power to Iraqis sooner than originally planned.
On Saturday, the Iraqi Governing Council said the occupation would end in June 2004, and a sovereign interim government would take over. A constitution is to be written and elections are to be held by the end of 2005, Reuters reported.
An audio tape that Dubai-based Al Arabiya television broadcast on Sunday, said to be from Saddam, urged Iraqis to force occupying troops out of the country.
“Fighting them … is a legitimate, patriotic and humanitarian duty and the occupiers have no choice but to leave our country … as cursed losers,” the tape said.
This was the first tape claiming to be from the ousted Iraqi leader in two months.