BAGHDAD, Nov 17 (KUNA) -- Operation Marne Courageous began Friday in a joint effort of coalition forces, the Iraqi Army and concerned local citizens near the border of Anbar province to drive out Al-Qaeda in Iraq, said the Multi-National Force (MNF) in a statement on Saturday.
More than 600 coalition forces, approximately 150 Iraqi soldiers, and some 70 citizens went into two villages neighboring the border of Anbar province "to lay groundwork for a coalition presence," it said.
Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), were joined by Iraqi soldiers in the air assault on the Sunni villages of Owesat and Al-Betra, west of the Euphrates River and approximately 15 miles southwest of Baghdad, it noted.
The US-Iraqi force was supported by an air-weapons team of Apache and Kiowa helicopters, while the citizens assisted in securing the outlying perimeter.
"While US and Iraqi forces moved through the villages, other troops set to work constructing a bridge across the Euphrates to allow for the transport of materials and supplies to build a patrol base in the area. The base will allow for a sustained coalition presence in the area of Owesat, part of Baghdad's southwestern 'belts,'" it said.
No enemy fighters were killed or captured during the assault, the MNF added.
Prior to the air assault, US F-16 fighter jets dropped two 2000-pound bombs on an island in the Euphrates that was "believed to be used by (Al-Qaeda) as a staging ground for attacks. The bombardment was part of a 'terrain denial' strategy, cutting off a potential (Al-Qaeda) escape route and denying the enemy a location to regroup," the statement said.
The operation's main strategic thrust is to clear Al-Qaeda extremists from the area of Owesat, establish a coalition presence, and develop a "concerned local citizens program in the area as a bulwark against further enemy activity, " it explained. (end) ahh.ema KUNA 171225 Nov 07NNNN