US, Iraqi forces enter Shiite center

Updated: 2007-03-05 08:39

Around the capital, US forces reported the discovery of a series of weapons caches.

Troops taking part in one operation that began Wednesday also stumbled upon an apparent hide-out west of Baghdad that was used by Sunni insurgents for torture and summary executions.

Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny described breaking through a double-locked door to find an Iraqi police officer and another Iraqi man who had undergone "considerable torture." The policeman had been shot in both ankles and the other man had been dangling from the ceiling and "beaten severely by a pipe for a good deal of time," Keaveny told reporters.

The captives told US soldiers they had been convicted to death by an insurgent court at the site - about 18 miles west of Baghdad near the village of Karmah - and had the choice of either beheading or a fatal gunshot, said Keaveny.

They were spared immediate death, Keaveny said, because the insurgents' video camera didn't work and they had gone to get a new one to film the executions. "(The insurgents) said they would be back in the morning," he said. "And that's when we came in, that night."

The two men were taken by US forces for medical treatment.

The site also contained a huge stockpile of more than 1 million pounds of aluminum sulfate, which can be used as a component in nitrate-based fertilizer explosives. But it also has other commercial uses, including water purification. Aluminum sulfate was among the items found in the car of the so-called millennium bomber, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian convicted in 2001 of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

Elsewhere, the military said an airstrike Saturday in Arab Jabour, on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, forced insurgents to flee and leave behind four Iraqi hostages - one claiming he had been held for 50 days.

On Saturday, an al-Qaida-affiliated group posted a video purporting to show the execution of 18 kidnapped government security forces. The Islamic State of Iraq said it carried out the killings - with the victims being shot in the back of the head - in retaliation for the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by members of the Shiite-dominated police last month.

The authenticity of the three-minute video could not be immediately verified.

The group also said it had killed 14 policemen, whose bodies were found Friday in the northeast province of Diyala. Some of the victims were decapitated, according to an AP photographer.

"It would be very helpful to the people of Iraq if civic and religious leaders, Sunni and Shia alike, would publicly denounce these horrific acts," said Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of US forces north of Baghdad. "With many influential leaders making the same statement, the population will realize that these terrorists are not the future of Iraq."

Also Sunday, a kidnapped Iraqi defense official, Lt. Gen. Thamir Sultan, was freed after Iraqi security forces stormed a house where he had been held, a government spokesman said.

Three US troops were killed in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province, the military said. One Marine and one sailor died Friday, and another Marine was killed Saturday, the military said in a statement. Their names were withheld pending family notification.


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