Five towns in Western Iraq in sights of US

Paul Martin, Washington Times:

Iraqi and U.S. forces are preparing to seize five towns along the Euphrates River near the Syrian border that have fallen under the control of terrorists, an Iraqi official said yesterday.

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In the five towns now under insurgent control, a ruthless Taliban-style regime has been imposed, a U.S. Marine commander told an embedded American reporter.

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The towns are Ubaydi, Qaim, Sada, Karabila and Dulaym al-Husayba.
The area comprises desert broken by lush riverside fields. It is populated by about 100,000 Sunni Arabs with a long tradition of cross-border smuggling activities.
Marines just outside Ubaydi told the Chronicle reporter that they come under attack every time they approach it and that U.S. troops do not enter the town, where the insurgents appear to have free rein.
The highway leading into it is marked with anti-American and anti-Iraqi government billboards signed by "al Qaeda organization."
One large metal billboard warns people not to become "spies."
Another billboard says, "Our religion will not be strong without the book and the sword."
By late last night, the U.S.-led coalition had not responded to queries about the five towns.

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