BAGHDAD (AFP) – US warplanes overnight pounded suspected Al-Qaeda havens on the southern edge of Baghdad for the third time this month, hitting more than 30 targets in a 35-bomb blitz, the military said on Monday.
The mainly Sunni Arab Jabour rural area was hit with bombs weighing a total of 19,000 pounds (9,000 kilogrammes) during the air raids, which aimed to destroy roadside bombs and arms caches, a military statement said.
The operation Sunday night involved precision air strikes by air force, navy and marine F-18 fighter jets and B-1 bombers, it added.
“The strikes that we conducted were focused on IEDs (bombs) and caches that we have targeted, that will allow us to get our ground troops further into the zone,” military commander Colonel Terry Ferrell said.
“These targets, the IEDs specifically, are designed as part of the defensive belt to prevent our forces from entering into areas that we have not been before.”
The raid follows air strikes in the Arab Jabour area on January 10 and January 16 in which, according to the statement, “a combined total of 99 targets has been hit, with a total weight of 99,000 pounds of bombs.”
The raid was part of Operation Phantom Phoenix, an assault by Iraqi and US forces launched January 8 against Al-Qaeda in Iraq strongholds across the country.
US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday that 1,023 suspected extremists had been arrested and 121 killed since the assault was launched.
The United States has not released casualty figures from any of three air raids but a leader of an anti-Qaeda “Awakening” front in Arab Jabour said at least 21 suspected Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the January 10 strike.