BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi forces launched raids Saturday into an industrial zone in Fallujah where authorities fear Sunni insurgents could be seeking to regain footholds in areas they once controlled.
But the offensive into the district of factories and workshops found no clear evidence that al-Qaida in Iraq or its allies had re-established a major presence in Fallujah, said the city’s police chief, Col. Mahmoud al-Issawi. He said police and military units found no significant weapons storehouses and made no arrests after an all-day sweep.
Security forces, however, have sharply stepped up their guard against possible return of extremist factions to areas that have been relatively calm.
Fallujah, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, was a hub for al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent factions before they were mostly driven out by a Sunni tribal uprising and U.S.-led campaigns more than two years ago. There are worrying signs of violence returning.
On Thursday, a suicide bomber struck an Iraqi military base in Habbaniyah near Fallujah. The blast injured at least 38 Iraqi soldiers, and was the fourth major attack against Iraqi security forces this month.
The industrial zone was once a center for insurgent bomb-making and rocket production. Streets were sealed off before Iraqi police and military units swept in, said al-Issawi.
In a separate operation, U.S. Marines joined Iraqi security forces in a hunt for weapons caches near Karmah village east of Fallujah, the U.S. military said.