Soldiers find front line at Iraq house

( AP ) - Barely out of a four-day battle, the soldiers scanned palm-dotted farmland from the roof of a small house, kneeling to avoid a sniper's bullet. A pair of Apache gunships hovered above and the occasional thud of artillery shells shook the ground.

This front line in the U.S. military's fight against al-Qaida in Iraq lies just 10 miles from the heart of the Iraqi capital.

"This is a road we had not traveled on in nearly a year," declared Lt. Col. Mark Solomon, the area's U.S. commander, standing on a dirt lane a dozen yards from the one-story house taken over by his 3rd Infantry Division soldiers. "We are going after the enemy and we are eliminating him," said Solomon, 40, of Burlington, Mass.

Less than a week ago, men from Solomon's unit captured Zambaraniyah, a farming community southeast of Baghdad, after the four-day battle that left one of his soldiers dead and 10 wounded.

Underlining the potency of al-Qaida's threat in the area - a patchwork of Sunni and Shiite farming communities and towns known as the "triangle of death" - the military unleashed some of the Iraq war's heaviest airstrikes Thursday, dropping 40,000 pounds of explosives on al-Qaida targets just to the east and southeast of Zambaraniyah.

Al-Qaida has long been entrenched in the Sunni hinterland south of Baghdad, but its strength there weakened when allied insurgent groups changed sides in recent months to join the Americans in the fight against the terror network.

But al-Qaida's presence continued in safe havens like Zambaraniyah until a 100-strong force of U.S. infantrymen along with 60 Iraqi army soldiers pushed the terror group out in this month's battle. The troops were backed by Bradley fighting vehicles, helicopter gunships, artillery and rare gun runs by low-flying F-16s.

Solomon, a West Point graduate, said he believes about 30 al-Qaida militants were killed in the battle, but that at least two or three dozen more were holding out, expecting reinforcements of weapons and men to resume the fight.

"They are off balance now, like a boxer punched hard in the head," said Pedro Maldonado, a 23-year-old native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He peered through his binoculars from the roof of the house.

"I never thought it could be this tough," Maldonado said of the recent battle. Some of the militants were so close by that the Americans could see the flash of their rifles firing.

That a major battle against al-Qaida should take place so close to the capital and nearly a year after the U.S. military began a large-scale offensive to calm Baghdad and its suburbs suggests either that the insurgents are elusive or that they are deeply entrenched.

U.S. commanders say al-Qaida militants have in recent months fled to the north and northeast of Baghdad to escape stepped-up security operations in the capital, where U.S. commanders say violence is down by more than 50 percent though devastating attacks persist.

But Solomon said al-Qaida's continued presence south and southeast of Baghdad was largely inconsequential, arguing that taking on the militants had always been planned as the next step after Baghdad became safer.

"It's true that Zambaraniyah is only a few miles away from Baghdad, but al-Qaida there has not been able to project its influence to Baghdad," he said. "Now that Baghdad is safer, we are going after them. Progress has been made but there's much more to do."

Just how much work ahead was evident in Zambaraniyah.

Solomon sternly warned a small group of reporters he took there that the area remained infested with roadside bombs and they must walk on ground only which already has foot or track marks.

"The enemy is a 100 yards from where we stand and snipers have taken position in the houses you see some 200 or 300 yards away," he said.

"I believe they are looking at us now," he said after going up to the roof. His soldiers, wrapped up in heavy jackets and ski masks, burned wood in a metal wash basin to fend off the bitter January cold.

Bradley fighting vehicles prowled in the vicinity, where soldiers torched some of the shrubbery to deny al-Qaida militants cover if they attempted a sneak attack.

Suddenly several of the soldiers spotted what they said was a head popping up and down in a field near the house. Tensions rose and the soldiers scrambled to firing positions. Three soldiers, rifles on the ready, rushed out of the house and into the fields behind in pursuit.

They found nobody.

Azerbaijani ministry to consider problems related to internet
Azerbaijani ministry to consider problems related to internet
Baku Metro building powerful ventilation infrastructure
Baku Metro building powerful ventilation infrastructure
Data on 1H2021 cargo, passenger traffic at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport disclosed
Data on 1H2021 cargo, passenger traffic at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport disclosed
Loading Bars
Latest
5.5-magnitude quake hits 146 km SE of Chignik, Alaska
Information on allegedly shot down two UAVs of the Azerbaijani army - false - MoD
Syrian rebels attack army outposts in southern Syria
Reports of repeated incidents along Armenia-Azerbaijan border causes grave concern - OSCE Chairperson
Turkey sees growth in number of registered companies with Iranian capital
Portugal to ease COVID-19 restrictions in phases
Israel to offer 3rd coronavirus booster to elders: PM
Iran exports to Iraq up 54% in 3 months
Georgia ranks 10th in terms of COVID-19 cases per residents
Uzbekistan's Central Bank remains main rate unchanged
Turkmenistan introduces ban on sale of electronic cigarettes
COVID-19 cases climb amid calls for vaccinations in Turkey
Baku holds Week of Diplomacy closing ceremony organized by Foreign Ministry, ADA University (PHOTO)
Oklahoma governor views work within "smart village" project in Azerbaijan’s Zangilan (PHOTO)
OSCE MG co-chairs concerned with recent incidents along Armenia-Azerbaijan state border
Egyptian journalists write articles after visit to liberated lands of Azerbaijan (PHOTO)
Central Bank of Azerbaijan to keep interest rate at same level - analyst
Over 190 people used services of social rehabilitation organizations in Azerbaijan since early 2021
Iran boosts exports to Iraq
Oklahoma governor, his family members walk throughout Azerbaijan’s Baku city (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani ministry to consider problems related to internet
Liabilities of Azerbaijan's Kapital Bank increases over 2Q2021
Kazakhstan implementing projects in free economic zone
Russia agrees to work on creating oil and gas cluster in Uzbekistan
Israel interested in establishing long-term co-op with Uzbek textile manufacturers
Baku Metro building powerful ventilation infrastructure
SOCAR to be engaged in building Switzerland’s largest green hydrogen plant
Azerbaijan's AzerGold discloses timing of iron ore production at Dashkasan deposit
Turkmenistan, Qatar interested in building up trade, economic ties
Data on 1H2021 cargo, passenger traffic at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport disclosed
Kazakhstan, Russia's Tatarstan discuss potential projects related to Islamic halal products
France calls UK quarantine rules discriminatory, excessive
Ministry in Uzbekistan opens tender for garages construction
Azerbaijan's Kapital Bank notes increase in assets within 2Q2021
Kazakhstan increases petroleum oil exports to Romania despite COVID-19
Kazakhstan, Russia discuss 'green corridor' for or moving agricultural goods
Moscow court fines Google over $40,000 for refusing to localize users’ data in Russia
Azerbaijan's Kapital Bank completes 2Q2021 with profit
Georgia reveals amount of food products import from Turkmenistan
Israel to offer Pfizer booster shots to people over 60
Uzbekistan launches construction of copper processing plant
Kazakhstan ready to expand non-commodity exports to Russia's Tatarstan
EBRD names date of approval of loan for waste management project in Azerbaijan's Ganja
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan agree to further co-op on Dostlug field
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens for July 29
Azerbaijan confirms 615 more COVID-19 cases, 181 recoveries
Big Tech starts requiring vaccines; Twitter closes re-opened U.S. offices
Iraqi army helicopter crash kills five
Chandrayaan-3 likely to be launched during third quarter of 2022
Buta Airways to Increase the Number of Flights to Izmir
Riskified begins trading on NYSE today at $3.3b valuation
Oklahoma State National Guard delegation continues to visit Azerbaijan (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Kazakh oil refinery opens tender to buy UPS
European Investment Bank signs advisory agreement with Hydrogen Europe
Azerbaijan's AzerGold reveals potentially usable, economically efficient ores at Dashkasan deposit
Iran launches new railway lines in four provinces
Turkey discloses number of military vehicles transported through its ports since early 2021
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan agree more than 40 km of state border
Uzbeki ERIELL Group eyes resuming drilling at Garraf oil field in Iraq
Largest tunnel in Iran’s Tehran-Shomal Freeway put into operation
Azerbaijan opens new military unit in liberated Khojaly (PHOTO/VIDEO)
EU signs deal with GSK for supply of potential COVID drug
Turkey discloses traffic stats for 6M2021 at new Istanbul airport
Russia records 23,270 new daily COVID-19 cases
Azerbaijan, S.Korea reached some agreements on reconstruction projects - ambassador
Georgia names volume of exports of various liquid foods to Turkmenistan
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls on Modi
Canada sees increase in inorganic chemicals imports from Uzbekistan (Exclusive)
Biden administration determined to continue stronger India-US ties: Blinken
Ministry discloses volume of metallurgical products transported through Turkish ports
Russia makes efforts to restore ceasefire regime on Armenian-Azerbaijani border - official
Armenians left not one intact building in liberated Aghdam - official
How many vehicles Turkish ports handled in 1H2021?
Death toll from COVID-19 in Iran exceeds 90,000 people
Iran's Rasht-Caspian railway project progressing
Hilton posts quarterly profit on recovery in leisure travel demand
Ministry discloses volume of oil products transported through Turkish ports
Turkey unveils 1H2021 data on shipment of agricultural products via local ports
Length of Iran's railway lines to increase – minister
Chinese companies may finance Iran's Shiraz-Bushehr railway project
International Bank of Azerbaijan completes 2Q2021 with net profit
Iran to host foreign reps for president-elect Raisi' inauguration
Turkmenistan exports its coffee to Russia
Iran Air to increase amount of flights to France
Ukrainian energy ministry updates on progress in Euro-Asian oil transport corridor project
Turkic World media platform now available in two more languages (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan reveals 1H2021 data on exports of fruit, vegetables
Georgia reveals COVID-19 data for July 29
Azerbaijan’s representative offices in Israel - important platforms for expanding business contacts, minister says
Foreign currency demand of Azerbaijani banks declines
Azerbaijani historical, architectural monuments destroyed during Armenian occupation - Academy of Sciences
Weapons, ammunition found in Azerbaijan’s Khojaly district
New prospects for economic cooperation opened between S.Korea, Azerbaijan - ambassador
Meet Alumni of British School in Baku
Database and co-op expanding to intensify work of Azerbaijani-Israeli commission - minister (PHOTO)
Baku court announces verdict to members of Armenian sabotage group
Turkmen Energy Ministry extends tender for power plant construction
Iran launches its Yazd-Eqlid railway line
Another working visit organized to Azerbaijan's liberated Aghdam (PHOTO)
Turkey reveals 1H2021 cargo movement figures via local ports from Belgium
All news