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U.S. targets al-Qaida in Iraq after key capture

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. forces detained 17 suspected insurgents in raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq on Saturday, the military said, a day after the Pentagon announced the capture of one of the terror networks most senior and experienced operatives.

Elsewhere, U.S. forces used fighter jets to destroy a truck bomb discovered in Anbar province, and conducted a raid south of Baghdad that netted weapons that insurgents apparently had imported from neighboring Iran, the military said Saturday.

U.S. and Iraqi officials in Baghdad declined to comment about Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, who was captured last fall on his way to Iraq, where he may have been sent by top terror leaders in Pakistan to take a senior position in al-Qaida in Iraq, officials said Friday in Washington.

The insurgent group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing last year of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra that touched off a fierce cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence.

After being secretly held by the CIA for months, al-Iraqi — who was born in the northern city of Mosul and once served in Iraq’s military — has been shipped to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison for terror suspects, the Pentagon said.

It said the Iraqi militant is believed responsible for plotting cross-border attacks from Pakistan on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and leading an effort to assassinate Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and U.N. officials.

'Systematic disruption'
The U.S. military in Baghdad said Saturday’s raids targeting suspected al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents netted four people in Mosul; six near Karmah, 50 miles west of Baghdad; two near the Syrian border; two in the Iraqi capital; and three near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

The detainees were not identified, but the statement linked some to al-Qaida in Iraq, including one who allegedly served as an intelligence officer.

“We’re achieving a deliberate, systematic disruption in the al-Qaida in Iraq network,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said in the statement.

The truck loaded with explosives was found early Friday near Fallujah, a city in Anbar province when Marines were tipped off about it by a suspected insurgent they detained during a routine combat operation in the area, the military said.

Loaded with eight large barrels of an unidentified liquid, the truck contained hidden detonation wire and explosives, the statement said.

After cordoning off the area and evacuating nearby citizens, the Marines called in U.S. fighter jets that destroyed the truck, causing an explosion large enough to damage some nearby buildings, the military said.

No civilian or coalition injuries were reported.

In Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces detained eight suspected insurgents and confiscated three caches of weapons during a raid on an apartment complex on April 22, including mortars, rockets and ammunition. The weapons appeared to be new and “were stamped with recent dates and Iranian markings,” the military said.

The United States has frequently accused Iran of allowing insurgents to enter this country carrying weapons such as roadside bombs used to attack U.S. and Iraqi convoys.

Gunmen open fire on vehicle
Deadly attacks, meanwhile, continued in the capital despite a U.S.-Iraqi security operation that began on Feb. 14.

Saturday’s deadliest attack in Baghdad occurred when gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in a Sunni-Shiite neighborhood, killing four of the seven people aboard, police said.

A police officer said an employee of the Iraq Red Crescent Society was among those killed, but the relief agency said it could not immediately confirm that.

The gunmen traveling in two cars began their 7 a.m. attack in Baiyaa, western Baghdad, by blocking a road to stop the SUV carrying the seven people, then opened fire on it, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. He said the victims apparently were heading to neighboring Syria.

At about 11:20 a.m., two mortar shells hit another residential area in western Baghdad, killing three Iraqi children — between the ages of 5 and 7, and wounding 10 Iraqis, including three children, police said.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb exploded Saturday morning near city street cleaners working in Zafaraniyah, a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, killing one of them and wounding eight, police said.