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Coaltion forces launch new offensive in Iraq
By Brian Knapp
Some 5,000 U.S. Marines, British troops and Iraqi commandos launched a new offensive Tuesday aimed at clearing a swath of insurgent hotbeds south of Baghdad.
The joint operation kicked off with early morning raids in the town of Jabella in Babil province 50 miles south of Baghdad, netting 32 suspected insurgents, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Insurgent violence has increased in the areas south of the capital in "an apparent attempt to divert attention" away from the U.S-led assault on the militant stronghold of Fallujah, the military said.
The area has been a major site of insurgent activity. U.S. and Iraqi forces have come under repeated attacks by car bombs, rockets, and small arms fire.
The region has become known as a "triangle of death" for the numerous attacks by Sunni Muslim insurgents and criminal gangs on Shiites, Westerners and members of the Iraqi security services.
In the past three weeks, Iraqi troops and Marines have detained nearly 250 insurgents in the area.
They have been aided by British forces from the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch Regiment, who were brought into the area from southern Basra to aid American forces in closing off militant escape routes between Baghdad, Babil province to the south and Anbar province to the west.
It would be the third major military offensive against insurgents since the massive Fallujah operation, which has claimed the lives of more than 50 U.S. soldiers and injured more than 400.
Earlier this month, the northern city of Mosul witnessed a mass insurgent uprising in apparent support of Fallujah's guerrillas. Some 2,400 U.S. troops were sent in to retake control over western parts of the city.