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FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. Army units moved in force early Sunday to seal off the conservative town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, intending to raid the homes of suspected militia leaders and search for illegal weapons.
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade targeted locations where intelligence reports indicated militia operations were underway or weapons stockpiled for use against U.S. forces. The operation was called "Spartan Scorpion."
The initial thrust against the city 37 miles from the capital met no resistance, but Iraqis flashed their porch lights in apparent warning to each other that American troops were coming.
The 2nd Brigade entered Fallujah and the nearby towns of Habaniyah and Khaldiyah on June 4, tripling the number of U.S. troops in the area after repeated ambushes on supply convoys. The brigade's mission was to defeat anti-American militias and help restore local government offices and infrastructure.
The raids across Fallujah by Task Force 3-15, Task Force 1-64 and Task Force Enforcer -- using more than 1,300 soldiers -- began at about 3 a.m., just three hours after a deadline for Iraqis to turn in heavy weapons under an amnesty program.
The raid against Fallujah followed an extensive action last week, dubbed Operation Peninsula Strike, against the so-called "Sunni triangle" north and west of Baghdad. That operation was completed successfully, the military said Sunday.
About 60 of the 400 people detained during that search-and-seizure operation remained in custody for further interrogation, the U.S. Central Command said.
Those in custody included former Iraqi generals of Saddam Hussein's army -- Maj. Gen. Abul Ali Jasmin, the secretary of the defense ministry, and Brig. Gen. Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of the Iraqi military academy.
With OH-1 KIOWA observation helicopters whirring overhead at the outset of the operation, one company of about 100 soldiers searched six farm houses in the northwest side of the city. Soldiers rousted the residents from their beds, including women and children sleeping outside in the cool night air.
The troops, wearing night vision devices under a bright full moon, found no weapons.
Iraqi and U.S. military police said Saturday that few Iraqis were handing over weapons under the amnesty program because of the fragile security situation. On the final day before the deadline, weapons collection centers were quiet.
The array of arms handed in -- 162 anti-tank rocket launchers, 11 anti-aircraft weapons and hundreds of assault rifles and handguns -- represented a fraction of the weapons believed to be in Baghdad's streets.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)