US battles al-Qaida in west Baghdad

Updated: 2007-06-01 21:35

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."

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