US soldier stands at a car bomb scene in Baghdad. (Reuters)

BAGHDAD, June 18, 2005 ( & News Agencies) – US occupation forces said Saturday, June 18, they killed 50 people in an ongoing offensive in Al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad, announcing yet a new onslaught.

“Approximately 50 insurgents have been killed since the operation began yesterday morning,” the US military said in a statement, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Fighting raged for the second day Saturday in Karabilah, near Iraq’s border with Syria, as US marines and Iraqi soldiers swept through the area in search of fighters and weapons.

Operation Spear, launched Friday morning, involves 1,000 Marines and Iraqi forces, backed by battle tanks who stormed their way into Karabilah, 200 miles west of Baghdad.

The onslaught is the third major US sweep in Al-Anbar region since the beginning of the year and the massive assault on the former resistance bastion of Fallujah in November.

Previous offensives killed at least 100 people, including some allegedly linked to Iraq’s most wanted man Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Hundreds more were arrested, according to the US military.

New Onslaught

Iraqi fighters take up positions at crossroads in Ramadi. (Reuters)

In a related development, US and Iraqi forces launched their second major offensive in western Iraq along the Euphrates river valley, reported Reuters.

“Operation Khanjar (Dagger) is focused on locating hidden weapons caches and denying insurgents sanctuary in the area that is a suspected insurgent and terrorist logistical hub,” said Captain Jeff Pool of the US Marines.

The US army said around 1,000 Marines, sailors, soldiers and Iraqi troops had begun Operation Dagger north of the city of Ramadi, a resistance stronghold west of Baghdad.

Pool added that fighter jets and helicopters were supporting the operation, with tanks, tracked vehicles and armored Humvees on the ground.

The new operation is focused on Lake Tharthar, about 85 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

The vast man-made lake separates Anbar from Salaheddin province, another resistance stronghold.

In late March Iraqi and US officials said they killed 85 fighters in an airstrike on an alleged Al-Qaeda training camp on the eastern side of Lake Tharthar.

There were several discrepancies at the time over what actually happened there, according to AFP.

An AFP correspondent who visited the camp a day after the March 23 strike saw fighters in control of the site. They claimed to have lost only 11 men in the airstrike.

Unabated Attacks

Despite the military operations, attacks continued unabated across the occupied oil-rich Arab country.

Two US soldiers, an Iraqi and a detained suspect were all killed when fighters attacked a US patrol north of Baghdad, the US military said Saturday.

One US soldier and five Iraqi police were also wounded in a firefight that followed the attack Friday in an area near Buhruz, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

According to the latest Pentagon figures, 1,707 US military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

In Baghdad, six Iraqi soldiers and two civilians were wounded Saturday in an attack against a joint US-Iraqi convoy in the western Al-Bayaa neighborhood, Iraqi security and hospital sources said.

Gunmen opened fire on a US-Iraqi convoy near Baquba, north of Baghdad, wounding four police, the Iraqi army said.

In Fallujah, a car bomber killed five Iraqis, including three soldiers, in a strike against an Iraqi army convoy Friday afternoon, the US military said Saturday.

In nearby Habbaniya, four Iraqis were killed Friday and 15 wounded when a car bomb exploded near a mosque.