U.S. forces kill suspected leading member of al-Qaida in Iraq

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 21 October 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq_Relative quiet returned Saturday to a southern Iraqi city
where masked gunmen loyal to an anti-American Shiite cleric briefly seized
control a day earlier in a bold confrontation with local security forces.
U.S. forces said they killed a key coordinator of foreign fighters under
al-Qaida in Iraq in an early morning raid in Ramadi.

Two days of clashes between elements of the Mahdi Army loyal to radical
cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's faction left 25 dead among gunmen and police,
underscoring alarm about the growing influence of such virtual private

The fighting came as Sunni insurgents staged audacious military-style
parades in a pair of cities west of Baghdad, advertising their defiance of
U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies.

The Iraqi military on Friday sent about 600 reinforcements to retake Amarah.
British forces who had turned over control of the city in August said they
had 500 soldiers on standby if the government called for help.

By Saturday, shops and government offices had reopened while army units
manned checkpoints around the city of 750,000 people, which sits at the head
of Iraq's famous marshlands where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers draw close

Haider Ali Abdullah, 35, said he rushed to reopen his tiny restaurant after
hearing that fighting had ended.

"We were terrified," Abdullah said by phone. "The last two days had a major
effect on our lives since we depend on this business to make a living."

Abdullah blamed both the local authorities and militiamen for allowing the
situation to deteriorate.

"If I have a problem with anyone, I should face him and rely on my own
wisdom to solve it without affecting the lives of others and killing dozens
of people," Abdullah said.

The Amarah showdown also highlighted the risk of an all-out conflict between
rival Shiite factions linked to political blocs wielding considerable
influence over the shaky four-month-old government of Prime Minister Nouri

Mahdi Army gunmen attacked after the seizure of one of their leaders by
local police that are largely controlled by Iraq's other main Shiite
militia, the Badr Brigades. The second group is sponsored by the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, whose leader,
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, is a key power broker who returned from decades in
Iranian exile after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Amarah lies just 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border with Iran, where
the Shiite theocracy is said to be funding, arming and training both

Along with the rising death toll among U.S. forces in the country, such
outbreaks lend urgency to a policy review under way among Bush
administration political and military officials. Polls ahead of
congressional elections next month show shrinking support for the more than
three-year-old war that has claimed 2,788 American lives, and leading
Republicans have urged for changes in the administration's approach to Iraq.

The U.S. military said seven suspected insurgents were captured in the
Ramadi raid, deep in the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. U.S. troops
destroyed the building in which the suspects had been hiding after finding a
booby trap, the military said.

It said the insurgent killed had been a senior leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
responsible for providing weapons and financing to foreign fighters in the
country, as well as producing and distributing video clips and other

The man, who wasn't identified by name, had set up a suicide attack
Wednesday in Habbaniyah west of Baghdad that killed two Iraqi soldiers and
injured six other people, the military said. The group, believed to heavily
composed of Islamic extremists from other Arab nations has been blamed for
scores of attacks on U.S. and other coalition forces, as well as suicide
bombings and murders aimed at sparking a full-blown civil war between Sunnis
and Shiites.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who conceded Friday that "right now it's
tough" for American forces in Iraq, met at the White House with Gen. John
Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, to review the situation
in the country. The White House insists all that is in question is a change
in tactics, not an overhaul in the American strategy of backing up Iraq's
government and army until they are able to function independently...

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that despite the violence in
Amarah, it was not a strategic error for the British to turn over control of
the city to the Iraqis in August.

"The biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create
a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and
competence," Rumsfeld said.

The clashes marred the Muslim day of prayer for the second Friday in a row
in cities where American and British forces had only recently ceded military
control to Iraqi security forces and the army. More than 100 people were
slain in Balad this past week, most of them by Shiite deaths squads drawn
largely from the Mahdi Army.

A U.S. soldier was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb
southwest of the capital. A Salvadoran Army captain was killed and four
soldiers were wounded when their convoy hit an explosive device in Wasit
province, southeast of Baghdad, El Salvador's defense department said.

The U.S. combat death toll in October alone stood at 75 _ likely to be the
highest for any month in nearly two years.

Attacks on Americans jumped by 22 percent in the first three weeks of the
holy month of Ramadan, when compared to the three previous weeks. The U.S.
military spokesman in Iraq said the bid to stabilize the capital was failing
and needs to be refocused.

Elsewhere in Iraq, clashes that broke out Friday between Shiite and Sunni
tribes just south of Baghdad have killed four people and injured at least
five, said Lt. Mohamed Al-Shemeri of the police force in the city of Kut.

Four people were killed and 16 wounded when a car bomb detonated around
10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) near the Sarafiyah bridge across the Tigris river in
northern Baghdad, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said. The bomb apparently
missed its intended target, an Iraqi police patrol.

The bodies of four electric company workers kidnapped Friday from the
Hafriyah area, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad, were turned into
the morgue in Kut, said morgue official Hadi Al-Atabi.

Another six people were wounded, including six children, when a car bomb
detonated near an outdoor marker in northern Baghdad, police Capt. Ahmed
al-Saadi said.

About 2,000 people joined a rally in Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles)
southeast of Baghdad, in support of recent efforts to reconcile Shiite and
Sunni groups sponsored by the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic
Conference. Religious leaders met in Mecca, Islam's holiest city, earlier in
the week and issued a series of edicts forbidding violence between Iraq's
two Muslim sects.

Members of the crowd chanted, "no to terrorism, yes to the Mecca edit," and
"stop the bloodshed." Organizers from the Fadhila party, a member of
al-Maliki's ruling Shiite alliance, called for the disarming of militias and
their inclusion in the political process.

Organizers of the Mecca meeting say they aim only to stop sectarian killings
between rival Sunnis and Shiites rather than forge a truce on attacks
against U.S. forces in the country.

Differences between the two sides were exacerbated when parliament adopted a
Shiite-backed law this week allowing provinces in the Shiite and oil-rich
south to establish an autonomous region like the Kurdish one in the north.

Sunni Arabs and some Shiites opposed the law, arguing that federalism would
lead to the eventual breakup of Iraq.