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Journalist's alleged killers held in Iraq
Updated: 2006-03-19 10:33

American and Iraqi troops pushing through a desolate area of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland rounded up dozens more suspected insurgents, including alleged killers of a television journalist, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saturday.

Journalist's alleged killers held in Iraq
Iraqi army soldier wait to transfer the bodies of suspects to an ambulance after a raid near Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 18, 2006. Iraqi army soldiers on Saturday raided a house, after a fierce gunbattle with unidentified gunmen, killing two gunmen, wounding one and arrested 18 suspect, including a Jordanian national. A large cache of ammunition, RPGs, roadside bombs and CDs of clerics giving fatwas to kill Iraqi police and Army members, were also recovered, police said. [AP]

The three-day-old sweep through villages 60 miles north of Baghdad stirred growing unease among leading Sunnis. One called it a needless "escalation" at a time of difficult negotiations over forming a broad-based government representing all of Iraq's communities.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, a dozen more bodies were found as a shadowy war of Shiite-Sunni reprisals went on. And Shiite Muslim pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala again came under attack, with a roadside bomb killing one and wounding five.

Reports of violence came from elsewhere as well: an oil tanker driver shot dead 50 miles southeast of Baghdad, a tribal sheik slain 30 miles west of the capital, a car bombing near a U.S. base in the northern city of Tal Afar in which the suicide driver was the only casualty.

Visiting Baghdad, British Defense Secretary John Reid expressed concern about "a greater degree of sectarian violence," but said he did not believe civil war was imminent. "The most urgent need at the moment is the speedy formation of a government of national unity," he said.

In a U.S. radio address the day before the third anniversary of the U.S.-British invasion, President Bush said the violence in Iraq "has created a new sense of urgency" among Iraqi leaders to form such a government.

Those leaders — representatives of the squabbling Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs in Iraq's new parliament — were taking a break from negotiations to observe Monday's major Shiite holiday and Tuesday's Kurdish new year.

They are deadlocked over how to apportion the most powerful jobs in the new government, as minority factions seek to limit domination by Iraq's Shiite majority.

In the counterinsurgency sweep, through a 100-square-mile area of semidesert northeast of the Tigris River town of Samarra, Iraqi soldiers and units of the 101st Airborne Division had detained about 80 suspected insurgents as of Saturday, said Lt. Col. Edward S. Loomis, a U.S. spokesman. Seventeen were released after questioning, he said.

Among those detained were six people, not further identified, allegedly responsible for the March 11 killing of Amjad Hameed, a journalist for the Iraqi television network al-Iraqiya, and his driver, the interim Iraqi government said.

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