Between Hit and Haditha

NY Times:


The Islamist Web site's posting today follows an announcement by the United States military command in Iraq on May 6 that Mr. Zarqawi, who is in his late 30's, narrowly escaped capture on Feb. 20 between the towns of Hit and Haditha, in the Euphrates Corridor.

Three days later, the military announced a major offensive by a 1,000-marine battle group in the stretch of the Euphrates running westward from Haiditha to the border with Syria at Al Qaim.

The military said at the time that the main targets were members of Zarqawi's terror troops, and it brought in air power to bomb targets. The offensive ended last week with the military saying that about 125 terrorists had been killed and that the rest had either fled to Syria or returned to the Iraqi interior.

Since then, there have been a number of reports of hospital visits by Mr. Zarqawi in Ramadi, Haditha and Baghdad.

The United States Command has been saying for several weeks that its forces have been seriously "degrading" terror groups in the so-called Sunni Triangle and that 20 of Mr. Zarqawi's top lieutenants had been killed or captured.

At the time of Mr. Zarqawi's near capture, a pickup truck in which the terrorist leader was a passenger did a U-turn at a security checkpoint. The driver, who was taken prisoner, said Mr. Zarqawi jumped out of the truck as it went by an overpass, leaving behind his laptop computer.

Since then there have been a number of reports Mr. Zarqawi had sought medical treatment in hospitals in Ramadi, Haditha and Baghdad.

This may explain why Operation New Market involves a cordon and search operation in Haditha. With no effective police in the city, it very well could be Z-man's hidey hole right now. If that is the case then the earlier report from the Scotsman, below, may have been disinformation to throw off the search effort. The AP report does not mention a search for Zarqawi, but it makes sense.

About 1,000 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers encircled this Euphrates River city in the troubled Anbar province before dawn on Wednesday, launching the second major anti-insurgent operation in this vast western region in less than a month.

Helicopters swept down near palm tree groves to drop off Marines who blocked off one side of Haditha, while other troops on foot and in armored vehicles established checkpoints and moved toward the city's center. U.S. warplanes circled overhead.


"A lot of this is like bird hunting. You rustle it up and see what comes up," said Marine Col. Stephen W. Davis, commander of the operation made of troops in Marine Regimental Combat Team 2.
If I were hunting for Zarqawi in Haditha, this pretty well describes how I would do it. Destroying Zarqawi's operations in this city has got to be a plus. This has the feel of tightening a noose around a very bad guy, and Haditha appears to be a place where the grapes of wrath or stored. It is time for him to feel the terrible swift sword of justice.


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