CAMP BOOM, Iraq (AP) - U.S. forces launched a massive operation early Sunday to crush insurgents and capture senior figures from the ousted regime in a show of force designed to stem a wave of deadly attacks on U.S. troops. Also Sunday, the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq said American forces must kill or capture Saddam so he can no longer be a rallying point for anti-coalition attacks that have killed more than 60 American troops since the war ended. The operation, dubbed "Desert Sidewinder," was taking place in a huge swath of central Iraq stretching from the Iranian border to the areas north of Baghdad, and was expected to last several days, military officials said.
The most notable thing about this operation is it's simultaneity and wide geographical coverage to prevent one group of fugitives from seeking shelter with another. The Arab Times says that "Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse conducted more than 20 simultaneous raids involving attack aviation, armor and infantry forces," the US military said in a statement. More than 60 suspects were detained in the raids along with weapons and military documents believed to relate to the former regime, the statement said. "The raids target former Baath Party loyalists, terrorists suspected of perpetrating attacks against US forces and former Iraqi military leaders, and to locate weapons and ammunition caches," the statement added." It's also interesting that Paul Bremer should set up the marker of killing or capturing Saddam Hussein. Executives normally don't like to raise expectations unless they know they can exceed them. Certainly one of the units slipstreaming behind the 4th ID units will be the shadowy Task Force 20.
A long article by MSNBC recounts an operation against a convoy suspected to be carrying Saddam Hussein and his sons. It ends with the correspondent standing before "something out of a James Bond movie, a group of palatial compounds with nothing but sand for miles around". It was empty, but troopers that MSNBC interviewed believed that the occupants of the compound were swept up by Task Force 20 and taken to an undisclosed location. One thing is for sure, whoever was captured that night has a lot of company today.