U.S. Launches 10,000-man Attack on Baquba
June 19, 2007 (LPAC)--US and Iraqi troops launched air and land attacks on Baquba, near Baghdad today, AFP reported. "Task Force Lightning commenced Operation Arrowhead Ripper today in a large-scale effort to eliminate Al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in Baquba and its surrounding areas," the US military said in a statement. "Approximately 10,000 soldiers, with a full complement of attack helicopters, close air support, Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, are taking part in Arrowhead Ripper, which is still in its opening stages."
They said the raid was started at night, and by dawn 22 militants had been killed. "The end state is to destroy the Al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people," said US commander Brigadier General Mick Bednarek. He added, that the operation was aimed at helping local Iraqi ministries to provide basic services, which "will build trust and confidence of the people not only in the provincial government, but in the central government as well."
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency reports that Iraq's war has driven the global refugee population to nearly 10 million people by the end of 2006. "By the close of 2006, there were an estimated 9.9 million refugees globally. For the first time since 2002, a declining trend in the global figures was reversed," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in its "2006 Global Trends" report.
The number of refugees rose by 1.2 million or 14% last year --equal to the 1.2 million Iraqis who sought refuge in nearby Jordan and Syria over the same period. 300,000 more fled to other countries, and the total--1.5 million--represents a more than fivefold increase over the year, the UNHCR said.
Iraqis now represent the second largest contingent of refugees, behind 2.1 million refugees from Afghanistan, the UNHCR said in the report. These UNHCR figures do not include Palestinian refugees, numbering 4.3 million, who are under the care of UNRWA, a different agency.