US launches major air strike on Iraq
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US launches major air strike on Iraq

The operation was announced shortly after the new parliament was sworn in.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 09:47 IST

US and Iraqi forces on Thursday launched what they said was the biggest air raid since the war began three years ago, with a massive assault targeting an insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad.

The operation, involving more than 1,500 Iraqi and coalition troops and 50 aircraft, was announced shortly after the new parliament was sworn in still without any agreement on a new government as the country edges dangerously close to civil war.

The mission, described as the largest air assault operation since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, aimed to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra, over 125 kilometres north of Baghdad.

US forces recently said a number of Al-Qaeda insurgents were ensconced in the area, known as Hamreen.

"Initial reports from the objective area indicate that a number of enemy weapons caches have been captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-making materials, and military uniforms," it said.

"The operation is expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted."

With inter-communal tensions still rife in Iraq, the country's first full-term parliament since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 was inaugurated today three months after a landmark general election.

But continuing deadlock on forming a government and choosing a speaker forced the chamber to adjourn after only a brief session.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 22:33 IST