Acting on intelligence gleaned from the capture of Saddam Hussein, US troops rounded up dozens of suspected rebels during two days of raids in towns where loyalty to the deposed president remains strong, officials said. Two Iraqis were killed in the process.
Smashing down doors, troops went from house to house in Fallujah, a center of resistance west of Baghdad, early on Sunday. Troops of the army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment blockaded Rawah, near the western border with Syria, in a sweep dubbed Operation Santa Claws, the US Army said.
Rawah was placed under a night curfew, while the towns of Samarra, 120km north of Baghdad, and Jalulah, northwest of Baghdad, were also targeted. Support for Saddam has been strong in all of those areas.
Soldiers arrested 60 Iraqis for questioning, and are seeking more than 100 senior members of Saddam's Baath Party and insurgents the military calls "terrorists," said Lieutenant Brian Joyce of the 3rd Armored Cavalry.
A 60-year-old woman was killed in one of the Rawah raids when soldiers blasted open the reinforced steel door of her home, regiment commander Lieutenant Colonel Henry Kievenaar said.
Troops patrolling in tanks, Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles seized dozens of AK-47 assault rifles and several rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Kievenaar said. They were searching for more arms and "people who finance, supply and organize resistance to the coalition," he said.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said several hundred Saddam loyalists had been rounded up in recent raids. They included "some of the leadership of this insurgency, absolutely, some of the cell leaders," he said on Sunday.
Myers tied the recent arrests to Saddam's capture.
"Some of the information we gleaned when we picked up Saddam Hussein led to a better understanding of the structure of the resistance from the former regime elements," he said.
Saddam was arrested on Dec. 13 near his hometown of Tikrit, and the US military has said soldiers also seized a briefcase containing documents that shed light on the anti-US insurgency. The CIA is interrogating him in Iraq; Iraqi officials say the former dictator is in the Baghdad area.
"The only word I have is that he's not being cooperative. But other than that, I don't know," Myers said.
In other news, guerrillas on Sunday fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a US military convoy at a police recruitment center in Mosul, 400km north of Baghdad. The grenade hit a civilian vehicle, seriously wounding the Iraqi driver, said an AP cameraman at the scene.
Some of the US soldiers in the three-truck convoy were outside their vehicles when the attack happened but were unhurt.
The higher education minister also reported the US military had detained three scientists from the University of Technology in Baghdad for questioning over their role in "military industrialization programs," a reference to weapons of mass destruction.
Minister Zayad Abdul-Razzaq Aswad said he complained about last week's detentions to Paul Bremer, the US administrator of Iraq. But the scientists, who lecture at the university, were still in custody, the minister said.
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