U.S. airstrikes kill 40 militants, military says

Sunday, June 12, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. fighter planes launched airstrikes on an Iraqi town near the Syrian border Saturday, killing about 40 insurgents who were stopping and searching civilian cars, the military said.

Seven missiles were fired at heavily armed insurgents near Karabilah, close to the volatile town of Qaim, the Marines said in a statement.

The insurgents were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers and had "set up a barricade on a main road to the city and were threatening Iraqi civilians," the military said.

About 40 insurgents were killed. The Marines suffered no casualties.

It was unclear whether any foreign fighters were among the slain insurgents.

The region is known as a haven for Islamic extremists crossing in and out of Iraq across the Syrian border to attack U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

The U.S. military launched two major counterinsurgent offensives in the area last month that killed an estimated 140 militants.

Since Thursday, insurgent attacks in Iraq's volatile Anbar province have claimed the lives of seven Marines. The bodies of 21 slain Iraqi men, some beheaded and most shot in the head, were found Friday in three separate locations near Qaim.

It is feared the bodies may belong to about 20 Iraqi soldiers who went missing Wednesday after leaving a military base bound for a vacation in Baghdad.

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