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Carrier jets run Iraqi missions but drop no bombs a sign of success to commander

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON (AP) Dozens of fighter jets have been roaring off the deck of this aircraft carrier to patrol Iraq for four weeks now but haven't dropped a single bomb a clear sign of success, the ship's commander said Wednesday.

The last time the planes bombed a target in support of the U.S.-led multinational force and Iraqi troops was May 8 when fighters dropped six precision bombs during a battle with insurgents, said Capt. Kevin M. Donegan.

''If airplanes come back with all their bombs on, that's a good thing because that means the soldiers (on the ground) did not need help and that things are under control,'' Donegan said.

The 95,000 ton carrier handles 70 jet fighter sorties daily, and more than 5,000 sailors and Marines keep the giant warship cruising smoothly in choppy waters.

The carrier arrived in the region in March. With other ships of the U.S. and allied navies, the carrier patrols the international waters, looking for weapons smugglers and terrorists.

''We are not trying to take over the Persian Gulf. We are here to ensure that the bad guys don't use this area,'' Donegan said.

The crew stays tuned to activities on the ground in Iraq. News that fellow servicemen are being killed in action concerns the crew, said Donegan.

The recent capture of a key aide to the leader of the Mosul branch of the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group buoyed the troops onboard. It made the carrier's internal gazette and boosted the crew's morale.

Mutlaq Mahmoud Mutlaq Abdullah, also known as Abu Raad, was arrested May 28. He is considered a key facilitator and financier for a militant identified by the alias Abu Talha, the purported head of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror cell in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

''It's exciting to see the fruits of your labor,'' said Lt. Brad Wooster who flies a surveillance aircraft. ''It really makes us feel that our presence here is really making a difference.''

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