Other residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared
retribution, said the clashes began after al-Qaida abducted and tortured Sunnis
from the area, prompting a large number of residents, many members of the rival
Islamic Army armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, to rise up against
the terror network.
Official casualty figures were not immediately available. But a local council
member, who declined to be identified because of security concerns, said at
least 31 people, including six al-Qaida militants, were killed and 45 other
fighters were detained in the clashes.
Lt. Col. Dale C. Kuehl, commander of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, who
is responsible for the Amariyah area of the capital, confirmed the US military's
role in the fighting in the Sunni district. He said the battles raged Wednesday
and Thursday but died off at night.
Although al-Qaida is a Sunni organization opposed to the Shiite
Muslim-dominated government, its ruthlessness and reliance on foreign fighters
have alienated many Sunnis in Iraq.
The US military and the Iraqi government congratulated Amariyah residents for
standing up to al-Qaida.
"Government security forces are now in control of the Amariyah district,"
Iraqi military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi was quoted as saying by Iraqi state
TV. He also lauded "the cooperation of local residents with the government."