By American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Coalition soldiers launched a major joint offensive, Operation Phantom Strike, on Monday in a powerful crackdown to disrupt al-Qaida and Iranian-supported extremist operations in Iraq.

Recent coalition offensive operations have reduced the effectiveness of extremist groups, military officials said. Operations have denied terrorists safe havens, disrupted extremist support zones and supply lines, captured or killed significant al-Qaida and other extremist leaders, and liberated large segments of the Iraqi population from their grasp.

These combined operations included the coordinated and synchronized efforts of coalition and Iraqi security forces, appreciably improving the lives of the Iraqi people, U.S. officials said.

“Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces continue to achieve successes and pursue security throughout many areas of Iraq,” said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Corps-Iraq commander. “My intent is to continue to pressure (al-Qaida in Iraq) and other extremist elements throughout Iraq to reduce their capabilities.”

In other operations over the weekend:

Coalition forces captured a key financier of “special groups” terrorists during a pre-dawn raid Monday in western Baghdad. The detained individual is believed to be a terrorist leader for the Bayaa province in western Baghdad. Coalition forces confiscated a vehicle, two computers, photographs and various documents that may lead to future operations targeting these groups.

“Coalition forces and their Iraqi interagency partners continue to build on a series of successful, integrated operations,” said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force-Iraq spokesman. “Breaking the financial support chain of the special groups is an integral part of dismantling terror networks that seek to kill innocent Iraqis and coalition forces. We will continue to pursue these special groups in order to promote peace and stability in Iraq.”

Coalition forces conducted a cluster of operations in Tikrit over the past two days targeting senior leaders of al-Qaida and their close associates. The ground forces captured an individual who allegedly aids senior terrorist leaders and provides lodging during their visits to the area. Forces detained 14 more suspected terrorists during seven coordinated operations.

Iraqi and U.S. Special Forces troops detained a suspected platoon leader of an extremist militia group during an operation yesterday in central Baghdad. The forces also detained five of the suspected leader’s associates. The primary suspect is suspected of conducting attacks targeting coalition and Iraqi security forces near Karada.

Iraqi security forces, with U.S. Special Forces advisors, yesterday detained an al-Qaida doctor near Ghazalijah, in Baghdad. The doctor is suspected of harboring al-Qaida terrorists and providing logistical support to the group.

Coalition forces captured 13 suspected terrorists with ties to extremist militia groups in a raid yesterday in Sadr City. Those detained are suspected of facilitating the transport of weapons and personnel from Iran into Iraq. They also are believed to have transported explosively formed projectiles from Iran into Iraq to be used against coalition forces.

“Coalition troops continue in their pursuit of unhelpful foreign influences here in Iraq,” Garver said. “Those foreign influences are hindering the prospects of peace and stability in Iraq, and we will continue to dismantle their networks.”

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