Thursday, March 16, 2006
US says launches biggest air assault in Iraq
BAGHDAD, March 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Thursday it had launched its biggest air offensive in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. A military statement said the operation involving more than 50 aircraft and 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops as well as 200 tactical vehicles targeted suspected insurgents operating near the town of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad. The statement said "Operation Swarmer" was launched on Thursday morning and is "expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted." Samarra was the site of a bombing attack last month on a Shi'ite shrine that set off sectarian reprisals and pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.