U.S. Army arrests resistance leader believed responsible for bo

Friday, October 10, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq -- U.S. troops on Thursday arrested an Iraqi resistance leader believed to be responsible for scores of deadly attacks against American forces around Saddam Hussein's hometown, officials said.

The 720th Military Police Battalion, in a series of overnight and midday raids of small farming hamlets along the Tigris River, also uncovered a factory where deadly roadside bombs were being built.

Led by an Iraqi informant, MPs raided a desert oasis in Tikrit's Abu Ajeed area and arrested a member of the Fedayeen Saddam, the ousted leader's former paramilitary force.

Another man was arrested with him, while an earlier raid netted three other members of the Iraqi resistance thought to be bomb makers.

"They are definitely, without a doubt, the individuals responsible for attacks against the coalition forces and probably orchestrating the attacks with improvised bombs in the Tikrit area," said Lt. Col. David Poirier, commanding officer of the 720th, based in Fort Hood, Texas.

The attacks in the past three weeks in the Tikrit area killed four soldiers and injured numerous others.

The military did not identify any of the captured Iraqis.

Poirier called the Iraqi informant "a significant find."

"He is a member of a family that is very very close to Saddam. It is a very significant person that we were able to detain," Poirier said. "He helped us arrest people close to Saddam."

The raids began late Monday, when the informant led the MPs to a set of homes in Uja, a small farming town just outside Tikrit that was Saddam's birthplace.

They discovered five rocket propelled grenade launchers, 60 mm mortar shells similar to those used to attack the main American base on Wednesday, 15 rockets, 25 blocks of explosives each weighing 400 grams, 40 hand grenades, an electronic detonating devices and a bucket full of cut iron pieces.

Each block of explosives is though to be enough for a bomb. The entire bomb factory, found in a mud hut, was destroyed.

In the second raid, which targeted three houses southeast of Tikrit, MPs in Humvees discovered an apparent detonating device in a mud housing complex, then dug up three mortars from a parched wheat field.

As he was arrested, the captured Fedayeen Saddam member looked at the U.S. soldiers with hatred as he was bound. "He is a card-carrying Fedayeen," Poirier said, holding up the man's membership card in the organization.

As Poirier spoke, soldiers discovered a rocket propelled launcher and nine rockets buried in a nearby well.

The man also is suspected of orchestrating a Sept. 18 ambush that killed three U.S. soldiers, an attack that marked a new cycle of orchestrated violence against the American military in Tikrit.

"He is responsible we believe for the attacks in the Abu Ajeed area, the ambushes on troops and attacks" against the main U.S. base, said Capt. Desmond Bailey, from Wetumpka, Ala., who commands the 10th Cavalry's Golf troop, whose soldiers were killed Sept. 18.

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