Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US troops uncover Iraq bomb `factories'

ATTACKS As insurgent attacks continue, US forces have detained 51 people who allegedly belong to a rebel cell behind the planting of roadside bombs in Baghdad


Insurgents attacked an Iraqi checkpoint south of the capital yesterday, killing five national guard soldiers and wounding five more, hospital officials said.

West of Baghdad, a US Marine died of wounds suffered the day before during operations in Anbar province, the military said, giving no other details. The Marine was the fourth to die this month in Anbar, a Sunni-dominated area that includes Fallujah, Ramadi and Qaim that's has been a hotbed of anti-US resistance.

In the capital, meanwhile, US forces said they'd uncovered a bomb-making facility and detained 51 people believed linked to an insurgent cell alleged to have been planting roadside bombs in the area.

During the operation, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, discovered several assembled bombs and four vehicles they believed were to be rigged as car bombs at sites in southern Baghdad. Also found were several automatic weapons, ammunition, explosives and 12 million Iraqi dinars (about US$8,750).

US troops and their allies are hit nearly every day by bombs planted on roadsides. Over a dozen car bombs in the country last month killed scores of people.

"These discoveries deal a blow to anti-Iraqi forces," Lieutenant-Colonel James Hutton, the spokesman for the 1st Cavalry, said in a statement.

In the southern city of Basra, one British soldier was wounded and two military vehicles damaged when a roadside bomb exploded there at 9:15am, a British military spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The five national guard soldiers were killed at a checkpoint early yesterday in Mahmudiyah, 30km south of Baghdad, said Dawoud Hussein, a local hospital director. Five more soldiers were injured in the attack, he said.

About 160,000 foreign troops, mostly American, have stayed on after Monday's handover of sovereignty to the interim government.

The foreign troops operate under a UN Security Council resolution that gives them responsibility for security. Though deployed under a UN mandate, they operate as a coalition led by US commanders.

Late Friday, Iraq's deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati called on France and Germany to help build and train his country's security forces.

"We need to build a new army and we need to build security forces and police," al-Bayati said in an interview on Friday with Al-Arabiya television. "We also need training for these institutions. The NATO countries, especially Germany and France, are important countries and we need the help from these countries."

At a summit last week in Istanbul, Turkey, NATO leaders offered military training to the new Iraqi government.

However, France and Germany, which had strongly opposed the Iraq war, rejected the US notion that an alliance training mission could develop into a NATO presence in Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted that any training must be outside Iraq.

Al-Bayati argued that getting help from the French and the Germans was something that was more important for the Iraqis than for the Americans.

"We want balanced relations with all the countries of the world, and we are seeking the help of the international community to build a new Iraq built on democracy and respect for human rights," al-Bayati said.

Jordan and Yemen have offered to send troops to help shore up security, but the government has yet to take them up on the offer. No Arab nation has contributed soldiers to the US-led coalition.

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