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 U.S. Launches Major Offensive in Iraq

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HADITHA, Iraq — About 1,000 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers encircled this Euphrates River (search) city in the troubled Anbar province Wednesday, killing at least three insurgents after launching the second major operation in this vast western region in less than a month, an official said.

The offensives are aimed at uprooting insurgents who have killed more than 620 people since a new Iraqi government was announced on April 28.

Helicopters swept down near palm tree groves, dropping off Marines who blocked off one side of Haditha, while other troops on foot and in armored vehicles established checkpoints and began moving toward the center of this city, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad (search). U.S. warplanes circled overhead.

"Right now there's a larger threat than should be in Haditha, and we're here to tell them that they're not welcome," said Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart (search), commander of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, which is part of the operation.


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