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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 02:55 GMT
US wraps up Iraq border assault
Operation Steel Curtain in Anbar province
US troops say they have been aided by Iraqi forces
US forces have concluded a major counter-insurgency operation near the Syrian border, the US military said.

A spokesman said 139 insurgents and 10 US marines died in the 17-day assault targeting al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Operation Steel Curtain marked the first major deployment of the Iraqi army in the restive western province of Anbar, the US military said.

Sunni Arab politicians have criticised the operation, saying its impact on civilians has been disastrous.

According to the US, the border towns of Husayba, Karabila and Ubaydi have been rid of insurgents.

The assault "set the conditions for local citizens to vote in the upcoming December 15 elections", it added.

Some 2,500 US troops reportedly took part in the operation, accompanied by about 1,000 Iraqi soldiers.

A permanent Iraqi military presence had been established in the area, the US said.

Washington and Baghdad regularly accuse Syria of funnelling fighters and funds to the Iraqi insurgency.

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