BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi troops killed a local Al-Qaeda warlord and US soldiers arrested two of the extremist network’s chieftains, during several operations announced Thursday in the wake of deadly bomb attacks.
The raids were announced after a series of car bombings killed at least 70 people in Baghdad on Wednesday, which served as a bloody backdrop to mounting political crisis in Iraq’s shrinking coalition government.
A militant known as Safi, touted as Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s emir of Mosul, was killed in a shootout with Iraqi soldiers on Wednesday after he and two cohorts were spotted driving in the country’s third largest city, the US military said.
An Iraqi unit gave chase and halted the vehicle. Safi and his bodyguards jumped out and opened fire. Iraqi troops returned fire and the three members of the Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate were killed, the US Army said.
American forces also announced the arrest of two other alleged Al-Qaeda in Iraq emirs during operations targeting senior leaders and propaganda cells in the terror network on Wednesday and Thursday.
They said they captured the alleged Al-Qaeda “sniper emir”, whom they suspect was involved in a plot against the mayor of Mosul last March and has allegedly claimed the killing of at least one US-led coalition soldier.
In western Baghdad, US forces on Thursday captured an alleged Al-Qaeda in Iraq “media emir” linked to propaganda in the Iraqi capital.
In another crackdown near the city of Samarra, a US air strike killed a foreigner who was poised to attack coalition forces during a raid on suspects accusing of helping foreign fighters, according to the US military.
Wednesday and Thursday’s US raids, including one in Al-Anbar province, saw four “terrorists” killed, another 20 suspects arrested, while weapons, body armour, US dollars and militant propaganda were impounded, the US military said.
“Every removal of a leader of Al-Qaeda, at any level, weakens the terrorist organisation and strengthens coalition and Iraqi security force operations against it,” said US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver.
The military also announced the the deaths of three more American soldiers in separate attacks, bringing US losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 3,656, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
South of Baghdad, gunmen barged into the home of Hadi al-Mayahi, a Shiite civil servant at the local branch of the trade ministry in Al-Wahda, killing him and kidnapping four of his sons, said police Captain Muntadhar Mohammed.
Further into the Shiite south, policeman Hisham Raheem who guarded electricity installations near the city of Kut, was shot dead in cold blood on his way to work, said police Lieutenant Ali Hussein.
Government figures released for last month showed a 33-percent increase in civilian deaths in Iraq in July, dealing a further blow to a five-month-old security plan designed to stabilise Baghdad and allow for reconciliation.
But the White House has downplayed the significance of ministers from the Concord Front, Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc, resigning from the government, which has effectively ended the cabinet’s claim to be one of national unity.
In California, a US military court is later on Thursday expected to sentence a marine corporal found guilty of conspiracy, theft and illegal association in a 2006 plot to murder an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania.
Marshall Magincalda, who was found not guilty of murder, kidnapping and making a false official statement on the US Marine base Camp Pendleton, is one of eight US servicemen charged over the death of an Iraqi man last year.
Prosecutors allege that 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a father of 11, was dragged from his home and shot dead beside a roadside crater to make it look as if he was an insurgent planting a bomb near Hamdania, south of Baghdad.