Iraq, US move against rebel stronghold
More than 5,000 Iraqi army and paramilitary troops backed by U.S. soldiers swept into this insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border Saturday, conducting house-to-house searches and battering down stone walls in the narrow, winding streets of the old city, AP reported.
Late Saturday, the prime minister ordered the Rabiyah border crossing closed in an attempt to stanch the flow of insurgents from Syria, which is about 60 miles from Tal Afar.
While several hundred insurgents using small arms initially put up stiff resistance in the city's ancient Sarai district, Iraqi forces reported only two men wounded in the day's fighting. The U.S. military issued no casualty report for the 3,500 Americans in the operation.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said 48 insurgents had been captured.
As the day wore on, fighting quickly died down, said Col. H.R. McMasters, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He said the joint force found the Sarai neighborhood nearly deserted once the shooting ended.
"The enemy decided to bail out," he said, adding that 150 insurgents had been killed the last two days. Jabr put the number at 141 and said five government soldiers died and three were wounded in the same period.
McMasters said the vast majority of insurgents captured in that period were "Iraqis and not foreigners." Iraqi officials said Thursday that they had captured 150 foreign fighters.
South of Baghdad, police made the gruesome discovery of 18 men who had been handcuffed and shot to death after being abducted two days ago from their Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital.
In recent weeks, dozens of bodies have been recovered, the apparent victims
of tit-for-tat vengeance killings by Shiite and Sunni Arab death squads.