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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL REPORT

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Tuesday, July 1

U.S. forces capture Iraqis suspected of leading attacks

By Christian Lowe | Marine Corps Times

BALAD, Iraq - In a series of predawn raids Tuesday, U.S. forces captured two top Baath Party leaders suspected of organizing attacks against coalition troops and the sabotage of Iraqi infrastructure.

Soldiers from Crazy Horse troop of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and troops from Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division captured 11 suspected Iraqi militants, including five former leaders of former President Saddam Hussein's political organization.

The raids in this town south of Saddam's birthplace of Tikrit came on the third day of a major counter-insurgency push dubbed Operation Sidewinder, which involved thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles.

Among those captured Tuesday was Burham Jasm Hussein, the local Baath Party branch chief who military intelligence officials believe was close to Saddam, and Saddiz Darwash, a Baath official and a suspected local organizer for a loyalist guerilla movement called Al Auyda, or ``The Return.''

Throughout Iraq, U.S. and British forces have been plagued by attacks that military officials believe are being directed and carried out by loyalists angry at Saddam's ouster. Twenty-three U.S. troops have been killed in guerrilla attacks since the end of major combat operations was declared May 1.

Operation Sidewinder is intended to crush resistance in a region that military intelligence officials believe is becoming an increasingly popular sanctuary for former regime members.

``We'll break their back eventually,'' said Capt. Brett Bair, Crazy Horse troop commander. ``I just don't see how they'll be able to keep this up for much longer.''

On Sunday, when Operation Sidewinder began, U.S. forces captured Najim Abdulla Abboud, a Baath Party branch head and area chief for the Fedayeen Saddam, a Baathist paramilitary group. Tuesday's raid was prompted by information from Abboud and from other intelligence, Army officials said.