Sunday, March 30, 2003

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ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: As loyal readers may recall, the U.S. had two enemies in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda based in Northern Iraq between Hussein's forces and the secular Kurdish parties. The good news is that Operation Iraqi Freedom appears to have succeeded in destroying Ansar al-Islam. Don't trust me, trust the ordinarily pessimistic New York Times:

"An American-coordinated ground offensive against the group continued today with intensive fighting in small pockets in the mountains, but officials said the military battle against Ansar al-Islam was nearly over.

It began with cruise missile strikes a week ago and escalated on Friday when about 100 United States Special Forces soldiers and 10,000 local Kurdish fighters seized a network of villages from Ansar and drove the militants from their bases to nearby caves and mountains.

The United States contends that Ansar is a terrorist group that links Al Qaeda and Baghdad, and cited the group's operations in the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq as one of the justifications for the war against Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds said at least 176 Ansar fighters had died. About 150 more were said to have surrendered to the Iranian authorities at the border. Pockets of resistance in the mountains could be heard returning fire, but Kurdish military officers said the outcome seemed certain.....

Ansar and its 650 or so fighters had been feared in northern Iraq since 2001, when they ambushed a column of Kurdish fighters near here. It has since deployed assassins and suicide bombers, and succeeded in infantry raids against the secular Kurdish authorities, whom it rejects as infidel rulers.

But today Ansar seemed on the verge of military insignificance. 'We are very excited,' said Dr. Barham Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister. 'It will be over before too long.'"

UPDATE: Here are the Washington Post , Guardian, and Associated Press versions of the same story.

posted by Dan on 03.30.03 at 05:07 PM