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Air strikes hammer remote terrorist camp

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Armament personnel from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing load munitions onto A-10 Thunderbolt II, March 29, 2003. From a forward-deployed location, these fighters will fly missions into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to end the regime of Saddam Hussien.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman JoAnn S. Makinano)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Armament personnel from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing load munitions onto A-10 Thunderbolt II, March 29, 2003. From a forward-deployed location, these fighters will fly missions into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to end the regime of Saddam Hussien. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman JoAnn S. Makinano)

WASHINGTON -- Coalition air strikes during Operation Iraqi Freedom are not only yielding the systematic demolition of the Saddam Hussein regime, but are hammering international terrorist organizations as well.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, in an April 1 Pentagon press briefing, displayed images of a remote terrorist camp in northeastern Iraq hit by coalition aircraft in recent air strikes. Among the suspected inhabitants of the camp were 300 to 500 members of both the Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida terrorist groups.

"We struck this camp with several dozen Tomahawk missiles and precision air strikes, and initial estimates indicate that a significant number of terrorists were killed," Myers said. "Many of the deceased appear not to be Iraqis but members of Ansar al-Islam, al-Qaida or perhaps other international terrorist organizations."

The general, joined at the briefing by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, said coalition ground forces found evidence that the residents of the camp were up to no good.

"We believe they were developing poisons for use against civilians in Europe and the United States," Myers said.

Similar results of the effectiveness of coalition airpower can be found near Baghdad, where the forces of Saddam Hussein are experiencing many a sleepless night, the general said.

"The air campaign continues to strike Iraqi leadership targets in Baghdad and throughout the country, to include air strikes on Iraqi command, control and communication facilities, as well as air defense sites," he said. "Republican Guard divisions are continuously being struck by our ground and air forces, significantly degrading their combat capability. Some of them have been degraded to below 50 percent."

Coalition pilots have dropped more than 9,000 precision-guided munitions since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Myers said. Those pilots have flown more than 1,000 sorties in the past 24 hours, he added.

Rumsfeld said it has become painfully clear to the forces of Saddam Hussein that they are fighting a losing battle.

"Day and night, coalition air power is degrading Iraq's command and control with strikes that are powerful, sustained and precise," he said. "The regime has not lost, but is losing its ability to effectively communicate with its forces."

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