Saturday, June 23, 2007

2 al-Qaida leaders captured in Iraq

BAQOUBA, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi troops captured two senior al-Qaida militants and seven other operatives Saturday in Diyala province, an Iraqi commander said, as an offensive to clear the volatile area of insurgents entered its fifth day.

The U.S. military also cracked down elsewhere in Iraq, saying in a statement that seven other al-Qaida fighters were killed and 10 suspects detained in raids in Tikrit, east of Fallujah, south of Baghdad and in Mosul.

Three other militants suspected of having ties to Iran were detained in a predawn operation by U.S. forces working with Iraqi informants in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City, the military said separately.

The Americans have accused Tehran of providing mainly Shiite militias with training and powerful roadside bombs known as explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, that have killed hundreds of U.S. troops in recent months.

"Coalition forces are determined to counter Iranian influence in Iraq, pursuing those suspected of smuggling arms and other forms of lethal aid into Iraq," military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said in a statement. "Disrupting the bombing network in Baghdad remains a high priority for us, and we will continue to target the cells' leaders and members."

Roadside bombs, including EFPs and other makeshift devices used by Sunni and Shiite militants alike, are the No. 1 killer of foreign troops in Iraq. At least 20 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq this week — all but five from wounds suffered from improvised explosive devices, the term the military uses for roadside bombs.

The British military also said Saturday that a British soldier had died of wounds suffered the day before in a roadside bombing in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The death raised to at least 153 the number of British troops killed since the war started in March 2003..........

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