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Troops uncover insurgent base, tunnels

January 13, 2008|From a Times staff writer

HEMBIS, IRAQ — U.S. and Iraqi forces Saturday discovered an elaborate insurgent base complete with two tunnels hidden amid the orange and palm groves of Diyala province.

On the fifth day of a military campaign across the notorious insurgent redoubt, Iraqi soldiers were searching through farms on the outskirts of Hembis when they spotted a car with wires and canisters.

Further investigation with the help of U.S. soldiers revealed two tunnels leading to sleeping quarters, a bomb-making hut with a power line connected to a nearby house, and a blackboard against a tree with concrete blocks arranged like seats around a fire pit.

Large quantities of weapons littered the site. Documents indicated that it had been used by a group of militants organized into three platoons. U.S. forces detained six suspects at nearby homes.

Last week, six U.S. troops and their Iraqi interpreter were killed during the operation when they stepped into a booby-trapped house packed with explosives.

"I told you, sir, the palm groves were like Vietnam with oranges," Spc. Matthew Reilly told his platoon leader in the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team's 3rd Squadron, I Company. "Nobody believed me."

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From a Times staff writer

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