US issues Iraq insurgents wanted list
The U.S. military on Tuesday issued for the first time a wanted list of dozens of key figures suspected of leading the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq, including a $1 million reward for a senior Baath Party figure believed to be running guerrilla cells.
In Tikrit, three Iraqis, including a 10-year-old, were killed Tuesday when a 120 mm mortar fired by U.S. soldiers landed on their house. The U.S. base at Tikrit has been receiving fire from insurgents over the past few nights, the military said.
The list of 32 wanted people included suspected cell leaders, former members of Saddam Hussein's military and regional Baath leaders thought to be helping the insurgency, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations chief.
At the top of the list, with a $1 million reward, is Mohammed Yunis al-Ahmad, a former top Baath Party official. Rewards between $50,000 and $200,000 were offered for the others.
"He is one of the former (regime) personnel we suspect of significant anti-coalition activities," Kimmitt said of al-Ahmad. "We have reason to believe he has been running cells in certain parts of this country."
The military has been compiling the list as it built up a better understanding of the insurgency, Kimmitt told reporters. "Some names keep popping up," he said.
Soon after Saddam's ouster in April, the military published a list of 55 most-wanted members of his regime. All but 10 of them have been captured or killed. Not all were believed to have played major roles in the insurgency.
Until now, U.S. officials have not made public a list of suspected leaders of the insurgency that erupted after the regime's collapse and has killed more American soldiers than did the invasion that toppled Saddam. The violence, blamed on Saddam loyalists and foreign Islamic militants, has persisted despite the Iraqi leader's capture in December.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed and six wounded by roadside bombs in Baghdad and two cities to the north on Monday, the military announced. Four U.S. soldiers were wounded and one insurgent was killed Monday in a firefight that ended in the arrest of a suspected cell leader and eight others, the military said. The cell leader was not on the list released Tuesday.
The latest U.S. deaths brought to 541 the number of American service members who have died since U.S. President Bush launched the war March 20.
Guerrillas have carried out a series of bloody attacks over the past week targeting Iraqi civilians and police, apparently seeking to derail U.S. plans to hand over power to a provisional Iraqi government on June 30.
At the same time, U.S. administrators are facing mounting opposition to their plan to use regional caucuses to put together the new government. The method was losing support on the Iraqi Governing Council, several council members said.
"This system is alien to us," said Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, a Sunni Muslim. "It's based on city councils, and the integrity of these councils is in question."
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish Sunni member of the council, agreed that the caucus plan has little support. He said the Americans could simply hand over sovereignty to the Governing Council but most Iraqis wouldn't accept it because the body was appointed by the United States.
Othman said he preferred a second option, holding "a national conference with the wide participation of political and religious figures" to produce a provisional leadership.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that the United States remains committed to giving the Iraqi people control of their country by July 1 but is open to ideas from the United Nations about how an interim government is chosen.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he hopes to report this week on whether the United Nations believes it's possible to hold elections to pick a new government by June 30. If he decides a vote isn't possible — as appears likely — he is expected to recommend other possible options.
The military's new most wanted list set new rankings of rewards for the fugitives. A $200,000 reward was set for 11 former regional military and political leaders from Saddam regime suspected of "associating" or "providing support" to insurgent cells, Kimmitt said.
Among the 11 was Lt. Gen. Hakam Hassan Ali al-Tikriti, a former commander of the military's helicopter forces and an adviser to the Iraqi General Staff during the U.S. invasion.
Rewards of $50,000 were offered for 20 "individual operatives in local terrorist cells," he said.
"These people have been targets for quite a period of time," he said. "We have now offered significant amounts of money for their capture."
The United States has also placed a $10 million bounty on al-Qaeda-linked operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian blamed for a series of devastating car bombs that U.S. officials say were aimed at fomenting civil war.
On Monday, U.S. troops launched a raid south of the city of Fallujah hunting for two suspected cell leaders. The raid sparked a gunbattle in which one Iraqi guerrilla was killed and nine others were captured, including one of the suspects. The two men were not on the newly issued list.