U.S. calls in airstrike in northern Iraq

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

BAGHDAD -- American soldiers called in an airstrike Monday during an attack on a house believed used by foreign fighters, killing five militants and capturing more than a dozen others, the U.S. military said.

The firefight broke out early Monday when American soldiers, acting on information from an Iraqi prisoner, came under heavy gunfire as they approached the suspected hideout in a remote area of northwestern Iraq, the U.S. said in a statement.

Soldiers called in an airstrike, which destroyed the house, triggering secondary explosions from the weapons and explosives stored inside, the statement said.

Five men were confirmed dead, and multiple suicide vests and heavy machine guns were also found in the ruins of their hideout, it said.

The statement did not give a precise location for the raid. But northwestern Iraq has long been used by al-Qaida and other Sunni militant groups as an infiltration route for smuggling weapons and fighters into the country from Syria, according to the military.

Monday's battle was among a series of raids over the past two days in northern Iraq against Sunni militants, who remain active despite suffering severe setbacks last year in fighting with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

In Beiji, an industrial city about 150 miles north of Baghdad, American soldiers detained five suspects Monday in an operation against a militant bombing network.

An alleged al-Qaida in Iraq bomber was captured Monday with another suspect in Mosul, and five others were arrested south of the city, the military said.

The al-Qaida in Iraq "emir" of Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city north of the Iraqi capital, was arrested late Sunday along with three other suspects, the statement said. Two other al-Qaida suspects were picked up in Baghdad.

U.S. officials have said al-Qaida and other Sunni groups have been trying to undermine efforts to reconcile Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities in the north and pressure Sunni tribesmen against cooperating with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

On Sunday, one American soldier was killed and 18 were wounded in a suicide truck bombing attack in Tamim province of northern Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the top U.S. commander in the north, told Pentagon reporters Monday in a videoconference that the Tamim attack "was an attempt to counter some of the reconciliation efforts" and to show that insurgents retain the power "to intimidate people in this area."

Elsewhere, a car packed with munitions blew up near a passing Iraqi army patrol Monday in the Karradah area of eastern Baghdad, killing three civilians and an army lieutenant, police said.

The blast, which wounded at least 12 others, damaged several cars and shops in a busy commercial district of the Shiite-dominated neighborhood, which is among the safest in the city.

Baghdad has been relatively quiet since a May 11 cease-fire ended seven weeks of fighting between U.S. and Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen. However, scattered bombings and shootings persist.

Late Monday, gunmen broke into three gold shops in the Mansour district of west Baghdad, killing three goldsmiths and wounding another, police said. The gunmen made off with cash and gold, firing pistols in the air to frighten bystanders.

Meanwhile, Jordan said it will dispatch an ambassador to Iraq "in the near future." The announcement follow similar statements last week by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Jordan has a diplomatic mission in Baghdad run by a charge d'affairs. It named an ambassador to Iraq nearly two years ago, but he never assumed his duties because of security concerns.

The August 2003 bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad was one of the first major attacks of the anti-American insurgency.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: