Tue, Nov 01, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Iraq `safe houses' bombed


US jets bombed two insurgent "safe houses" near the Syrian border yesterday in an attack aimed at al-Qaeda in Iraq, and coalition forces swept through several areas of Baghdad, taking nearly 100 suspected militants into custody, the US command said.

Two separate mortar attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed three people and wounded 11. A car bomb and two drive-by shootings in the capital killed a construction contractor and wounded six people, police said.

The violence was the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni-led militants. On Sunday, gunmen killed Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, the brother of Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and a top trade ministry official escaped assassination in another part of the capital.

The US command also announced on Sunday that a marine died of injuries suffered the day before in a roadside bombing west of the capital. At least 2,016 US military members have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an AP count.

US Marines supported by warplanes and helicopters have been raiding targets in towns and villages near Iraq's desolate border with Syria in an effort to disrupt Iraqi and foreign insurgents.

Yesterday, US jets attacked a "safe house" apparently being used by a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq cell leader in Obeidi, a border town 300km west of Baghdad, the military said. The jets also used precision-guided munitions to attack a second house suspected of being a base for attacks against US and Iraqi forces, the US command said.

Its statement mentioned no casualties and did not identify the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader by name. At the local hospital, Dr. Ahmed al-Ani claimed 40 Iraqis, including 12 children, were killed in the attack. US officials also reported a Saudi-born al-Qaeda militant known only as Abu Saud was killed by coalition forces on Saturday near al-Oeidi.

On Friday and Saturday, US and Iraqi forces conducted several raids in Baghdad, detaining 98 suspected insurgents and finding large weapons caches.. One cache, found hidden in a building in a second-story crawl space beneath a bathtub, included 13 AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, 20 AK-47 barrels, a pistol, US currency and an ammunition stockpile, the US military said.

At 9am yesterday, two mortar rounds hit the Hamah intersection near Iraq's Oil Ministry in central Baghdad, killing a civilian, wounding four, and damaging several vehicles, police said.

A similar attack occurred in Bani Saad, a town 60km northeast of Baghdad. Two mortar rounds hit a local Iraqi army headquarters, killing two soldiers and wounding seven, police said.

Recently insurgents, who often use roadside bombs and suicide bombers in their attacks, appear to have been firing more mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in their strikes.

Gunmen seriously wounded police Major Hazim Shebib and his driver in an attack at 7:30am yesterday in Dora, one of Baghdad's most violent areas.

In an interview with US cable television station FOX News, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani complained that US commanders were stalling on giving Iraqi forces a bigger role in battling the insurgents.

"We ask them for things to change, they agree, and then nothing happens," Talabani said. He said the Iraqis would prefer for coalition forces to concentrate on protecting oil pipelines and other key infrastructure.

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