BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Iraqi soldiers have discovered chemical materials in a Falluja lab, while a top aide of wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been arrested in Mosul, Iraq’s interim national security adviser said Thursday.
The reports came as U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted anti-insurgency operations in Falluja, Mosul and south of Baghdad in the province of Babil.
Iraq’s interim National Security Adviser Kasim Dawood announced discovery of the lab with chemical materials which he said was “manufacturing death, intoxication and assassination.
“We have also discovered in this laboratory a pamphlet and instructions showing how to manufacture explosives and toxins,” Dawood said. “And they also talk about the production of anthrax.”
Dawood said alleged al-Zarqawi aide Abu Said was arrested on Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul. An audio message purported to be by the Jordanian-born al Qaeda associate was discovered on the Internet on Wednesday. (Full story)
On Thursday, forces in Mosul detained three suspected insurgents, the U.S. military said. Two of the detainees were arrested in a cordon-and-search operation in the west-central sector of the city. One detainee was identified as a member of a terrorist cell. A detainee who was arrested in eastern Mosul was wanted for “anti-Iraqi activities,” the U.S. military said.
South of Baghdad, Iraqi, U.S. and British forces Thursday arrested 81 suspected insurgents during a third day of their anti-rebel offensive in Babil province, the U.S. military said.
The arrests were made in the early morning near Yousefiya by Iraqi SWAT personnel, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 1st Battalion of Britain’s Black Watch Regiment, according to a military statement.
Black Watch rounded up 26 people. Iraqi forces and Marines detained 43. Elsewhere in the area, Marines arrested 12 others, the statement said, raising the total arrests of suspected insurgents since Tuesday to 116.
The Babil operation, the U.S. military has said, differs from the recent mass assault in Falluja. It is surgical rather than sweeping — more of a focused hit-and-run operation.
In Falluja, the former rebel stronghold west of Baghdad, U.S. Marines said Thursday that U.S. and Iraqi forces had discovered a huge weapons cache inside a mosque compound.
A statement from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force called the find the city’s “largest weapons cache to date.”
The Marines said the compound — the Saad Abi Bin Waqas Mosque — was also being used as a suspected safe house and planning site for insurgents in Falluja.
The statement didn’t provide specific numbers of the weapons — which were discovered by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Wednesday.
The statement did say that the mosque compound was “heavily laden with small arms, artillery shells, heavy machine guns, and anti-tank mines.”
“Other buildings within the compound had mortar systems, rocket-propelled grenades, launchers, recoilless rifles and parts of surface-to-air weapons systems. Marines also found the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun outside one of the buildings.” (Full story)
The operations in Babil, Falluja and elsewhere are aimed at putting down anti-American fighters and rebels against Iraq’s interim government in advance of the nation’s first, free Democratic elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The elections are scheduled for January 30.
# This month’s U.S.-Iraqi assault on insurgents in Falluja has resulted in the deaths of 2,085 “fighters” and more than 1,600 detainees, Iraqi interim National Security Adviser Dawood said.
# An Iraqi Red Crescent humanitarian aid team of 56 staff members arrived in Falluja Wednesday with seven ambulances and three trucks loaded with food, water, and medical aid, the group’s chairman, Said Ismail Hakki, said Thursday. Two Falluja aid centers have been set up in the city, Hakki said.
# Iraq’s interim foreign minister said Thursday his government will meet with tribal leaders and Iraqi opposition groups in an attempt to help broaden Iraq’s political base for the upcoming elections. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the meeting will take place in Jordan sometime before the election. Zebari also said interior ministers from neighboring countries will meet Tuesday in Tehran, Iran, to discuss security matters.