Soldiers in Baqouba Keep Pressure on Al-Qaida in Iraq
By Staff Sgt. Antonieta Rico
Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment continued their systematic attack on terrorist forces in Baqouba with another clearing operation in the city April 10.
In this latest effort, Soldiers of 5-20 Inf. Regt., 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., spent three days clearing the neighborhood of Buhriz, described by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Bruce Antonia as "al-Qaida's battleground."
When the Stryker battalion first arrived in Baqouba in March, it encountered resistance from the neighborhood's insurgents in the form of roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenade fire and small arms fire.
During the mission, Soldiers operating alongside Iraqi Security Forces conducted house-to-house searches for terrorists and weapon caches. They learned from residents that many terrorists had fled Buhriz in the face of the advancing battalion.
"We've pushed al-Qaida out of here," said Sgt. Matthew Benzshawel, with 2nd Platoon, Company A, "We are a pretty lethal force. When (insurgents) see a battalion's worth of Strykers coming, (they) usually move out."
Nonetheless, the battalion reported that coalition forces detained about a dozen suspected insurgents, including one man described by the unit as a "high-level" terrorist.
The battalion also reported that it found and destroyed more than 20 small weapon caches, which included a Dishka machine gun, grenades, mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenade rounds, sniper rifles, AK-47's and ammunition.
Soldiers from the battalion say they have managed to make the area safer for the local people with their continuous efforts against al-Qaida in Iraq.
"We've denied them the terrain," said 1st Lt. James Dobis, 2nd Platoon leader, Company A. "They have not been fighting with anybody, they have not attacked us ... they have not attacked any civilians."
The assault into Buhriz served as a catalyst to secure a foothold in the area. Iraqi Security Forces, along with Soldiers from Troop B, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to 5-20 Inf. Regt., plan to maintain a permanent presence within the neighborhood by collocating troops at an Iraqi police station in Buhriz and continuing to patrol the area.
Battalion leaders plan to continue their assault on al-Qaida in Iraq forces in and around Baqouba.
"We have taken their battleground," said Antonia, after the operation. "We are going to keep the pressure on the enemy. That is the only way to push them out."
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