Key al-Qaida in Iraq figure arrested
Updated: 2006-02-28 08:44
Iraqi security forces announced on Monday the capture of a senior al-Qaida in
Iraq figure, and the U.S. ambassador said the risk of civil war from last week's
sectarian violence was over.
Iraqi women pass by an Iraqi army
tank guarding the street, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb.27, 2006. Four
mortar rounds exploded Monday on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, killing
four and wounding 16. [AP]
Violence throughout Iraq killed 36 people Monday, as
fierce fighting broke out between Iraqi commandos and insurgents southeast of
the capital. But sectarian clashes have declined sharply since the bloodletting
that followed the destruction of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, and Baghdad
residents returned to their jobs after three days of a government-imposed
"We were at home for three days doing nothing," tea vendor Abbas Kudir said.
"We are of limited income. We earn money when people can come and buy tea
normally. We hope the government will pay attention to our difficulties."
Sunni Arab leaders said they were prepared to end their boycott of the talks
on a new government if Shiites return mosques seized in reprisal attacks against
Sunnis and meet other unspecified demands.
"That crisis is over," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared.
"I think the country came to the brink of a civil war, but the Iraqis decided
that they didn't want to go down that path, and came together," the ambassador
told CNN. "Clearly the terrorists who plotted that attack wanted to provoke a
civil war. It looked quite dangerous in the initial 48 hours, but I believe that
the Iraqis decided to come together."
Also Monday, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said they believe American
journalist Jill Carroll remains alive the day after a deadline set by her
captors passed with no word of her fate. A senior ministry official refused to
say why they don't believe Carroll's captors carried out their threat to kill
the 28-year-old freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor.
The captured al-Qaida figure was identified as Abou al-Farouq, a Syrian who
financed and coordinated groups working for Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi, in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, according to an
Interior Ministry officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to address the media.
Acting on a tip from residents, members of the Interior Ministry's Wolf
Brigade captured al-Farouq with five other followers of al-Zarqawi near Bakr,
about 100 miles west of Baghdad, the ministry said.
The Defense Ministry said Iraqi security forces have killed 35 insurgents and
arrested 487 in raids across the country since the bombing last Wednesday of the
The Shiite-Sunni violence threatened U.S. plans of a broad-based government
capable of luring Sunni Arabs away from the deadly insurgency so coalition
troops can begin heading home.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, whose Iraqi Accordance Front spearheaded the Sunni walkout
from the talks, said the Sunnis are "intent on participating" in a new
government but are holding out for "some conditions" to be met.
The U.S. State Department praised the Sunni leadership as "looking to get
back into the game, full strength" and brushed aside the additional demands.
"The conditions are less important than the fact that there are good-faith
discussions going on about resuming full-bore talks on a national unity
government," said deputy spokesman Adam Ereli in Washington.
The speed with which sectarian attacks spread from Samarra to Baghdad and
Shiite strongholds in southern Iraq raised concern about the ability of Iraq's
understaffed and ill-equipped security forces to handle the crisis.
Sunni leaders accused the Shiite-dominated police and army of standing by as
Shiite militiamen sprayed their mosques with machine-gun fire and took over some
of them. More than 200 people were reported killed in sectarian violence.
The Defense Ministry countered Monday that a curfew in Baghdad and three
surrounding provinces curtailed the violence.
A spokesman identified the Iraqis captured and killed since Wednesday as
linked to various terror groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq, but could not
confirm whether any of them took part in the Samara shrine bombing.
U.S. helicopters fired on three houses 15 miles west of Samarra and arrested
10 people, Iraqi police said. It was unclear if the raid was linked to the
shrine bombing. The U.S. military did not immediately comment.
Interior Ministry commandos fought a three-hour gunbattle with Sunni-led
insurgents near Nahrawan, about 15 miles southeast of Baghdad, after about 15
Shiite families were driven from their homes in the nearby village of Saidat,
police said. At least eight commandos and five insurgents were killed in the
fighting, which also injured six commandos and four civilians, police said.
The body of an official with Iraq's largest Sunni Muslim political group was
delivered to the Health Ministry morgue Monday with signs of torture, his party
said. Waad Jassim al-Ani, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was seized from
his home Saturday by an unspecified "security agency," the party said. Sunni
leaders accuse Iraq's Shiite-led Interior Ministry of running death squads that
target them ¡ª a charge denied by the ministry.
The U.S. military said an American soldier had died from non-combat related
injuries suffered Friday north of Baghdad. The statement did not elaborate.
Three soldiers were killed Sunday in combat operations in the capital.
Their deaths brought to at least 2,291 the number of members of the U.S.
military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003,
according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military