GIs sweep Baghdad; Al-Qaida leader hurt

(www.ap.org) вЂ" U.S. and Iraqi forces pushed deeper into Sunni militant strongholds in Baghdad вЂ" where cars rigged with explosives greeted their advance вЂ" while British-led teams in southern Iraq used shipping containers to block suspected weapon smuggling routes from Iran. Early Friday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was wounded and an aide was killed in a clash the previous day with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad.

However, the deputy interior minister said he had no information about such a clash, and two U.S. officials could not immediately confirm the report.

The series of car bomb blasts, which killed at least seven civilians, touched all corners of Baghdad. But it did little to disrupt a security sweep seeking to weaken militia groups' ability to fight U.S.-allied forces вЂ" and each other вЂ" as Iraq slips further into factional bloodshed.

The attacks, however, pointed to the critical struggle to gain the upper hand on Baghdad's streets. The Pentagon hopes its current campaign of arrests and arms seizures will convince average Iraqis that militiamen are losing ground. Yet each explosion is another reminder of the militants' resources and resolve.

Most of the latest resistance has come from Sunni factions, which perceive their Saddam Hussein-era influence slipping away as the majority Shiites extend their political muscle and bolster ties to powerful Iran.

In Baghdad's Dora neighborhood вЂ" a longtime Sunni militant hotbed вЂ" two parked cars wired with explosives were triggered as a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol rolled past. The convoy was unharmed, but the blast killed at least four civilians and wounded 15.

Control of the Dora district, a once upscale neighborhood favored by Saddam's regime, is important as a gateway between Baghdad and the Shiite-dominated south. Two other car bomb blasts came as security forces moved through the capital, killing at least three civilians.

Outside Baghdad, troops also faced Sunni ambushes. In Buhriz, about 30 miles northeast of the capital, Sunni gunmen and soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment engaged in a 20-minute firefight.

U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles fired 25mm rounds into homes shielding the gunmen, said an Associated Press reporter traveling with the unit.

No U.S. casualties were reported, and the militant toll was not known. Separately, however, a U.S. Marine was killed in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province, a Sunni militant stronghold.

The announcement about the wounding of al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, came from Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman. He said the clash occurred near Balad, a major U.S. base about 50 miles north of the capital, and identified the dead aide as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai.

Al-Masri took over the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after its charismatic leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last June in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. In October, false reports surfaced that al-Masri was killed in a raid, and the U.S. military performed DNA tests on a slain militant to see if he was the al-Qaida leader.

Al-Zarqawi was widely believed to have fomented sectarian war through his campaign of brutal suicide attacks against Shiite civilians. The first steps of the security operation display the sectarian divides complicating any plan to calm Baghdad вЂ" which is key to begin stabilizing the rest of the country.

A leader of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, Adnan al-Dulaimi, claimed the U.S.-led sweeps have "started to attack" mostly Sunni areas. "It should concentrate on those who are perpetrating the violence and terrorist acts in all districts," he said вЂ" an apparent reference to the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City.

Around the capital, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers set up dozens of roadway checkpoints and conducted top-to-bottom searches of vehicles and motorbikes. Waiting in a snarl of traffic at one blockade, Mohammed al-Jubouri said people are willing to put up with delays so long as the security sweep shows some results after bombings that have killed hundreds of civilians this year.

"We are fed up with these stalling words," al-Jubouri said. "We want only the security and stabilization."

Mohammed Ali Jassim, a 40-year-old Sunni owner of a spare parts store, was hopeful the security plan will work. Jassim said he was forced to abandon his business in one of Baghdad's commercial areas, Sinak, where more than 50 people were kidnapped by gunmen disguised in military uniforms late last year. Jassim's brother was among the victims.

"I wish I could open my store again and send my children to their schools without fear of being kidnapped or killed," Jassim said.

But a supermarket owner in western Baghdad, Anwar Abdullah, claimed the security push is doomed for failure because most of the militants have fled the city in advance.

"It sounds like this security plan is going to affect us more than it will affect terrorists," he said.

After nightfall вЂ" and the daily citywide curfew вЂ" U.S. warplanes flew low over Baghdad in an apparent attempt to show the security push is gathering momentum.

In southern Iraq, British and Iraqi security forces closed two border points with Iran at Sheeb and Shalamcha вЂ" blocking the gates with large metal shipping containers вЂ" and expanded coastal patrols to monitor maritime traffic into southern Iraq, a statement said.

Authorities also set up checkpoints ringing Basra, Iraq's second-largest city and the commercial hub of the Shiite-dominated south. The British military said the operation would last for 72 hours.

President Bush said Wednesday the Iranian government is providing armor-piercing bombs to kill American soldiers in Iraq, although he backed away from claims the top echelon of Iran's government was responsible.

Iraq also temporarily closed its borders with Syria on Wednesday. Washington and some allies have claimed Sunni militants have used Syria's porous border with Iraq as vital supply routes.

Meanwhile, another round of conflicting reports deepened the mystery about the whereabouts of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose loyalists include the Mahdi Army militia.

Sami al-Askari, a top adviser to Iraq's prime minister, said al-Sadr traveled to Iran "a few days ago," but he gave no details on how long the cleric would stay. He denied that al-Sadr left Iraq in fear of arrest under the security crackdown. But a lawmaker loyal to al-Sadr, Saleh al-Ukaili, insisted that al-Sadr is in Iraq and claimed the accounts of his departure were part of a "campaign by the U.S. military" to track down the cleric.

A statement from the office of President Jalal Talabani quoted him as saying that he has no information on al-Sadr's location, but he believed "many of the Mahdi Army commanders have been instructed to leave Iraq to facilitate the mission of the security forces."

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked about reports that al-Sadr was in Iran. "I hear that ... but I haven't seen any factual proof at this point," Gates said. "I don't think he went there for a vacation."

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
ITACA Training and Research Center opened at Baku Higher Oil School (PHOTO)
ITACA Training and Research Center opened at Baku Higher Oil School (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan opens criminal investigation against 297 Armenian citizen involved in war crimes
Azerbaijan opens criminal investigation against 297 Armenian citizen involved in war crimes
Launch of Baku-Shusha bus route of particular importance for Shusha city - Special Representative of Azerbaijani President
Launch of Baku-Shusha bus route of particular importance for Shusha city - Special Representative of Azerbaijani President
Loading Bars
Latest
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev holds videoconference meeting with Iranian minister (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani oil prices decline
Israeli envoy recalls key role of India in WW-I
Kyrgyzstan gradually restoring energy system after power outage in Bishkek
Uzbekistan accredits Russia's Gazprombank
Credit Suisse's problems mount as lender warns on Q4 profit
Israel mulls offering 4th COVID vaccine dose to all adults
Azerbaijan commissions several customs posts in liberated areas
Georgia names main suppliers of coal
Kazakhstan’s Almaty Int’l Airport operating as usual despite power outage in city
Uzbekistan discloses reasons for power outage
Georgia to highly benefit from Turkish medicines – ministry
Azerbaijani First VP Mehriban Aliyeva congratulates Fatma Sattarova on 100th birthday anniversary (PHOTO)
Kazakhstan taking measures to eliminate accident that caused power outage – KEGOC
Russian company acquires stake in Uzbek cement plant
Loan portfolio of banks increases in Azerbaijan
Georgia reports new record high COVID-19 cases
Georgia’s Poti FIZ eyes launching new projects in 2022
Electricity supply facing security challenges, requires multiple services
Azerbaijani Defense Minister's visit to Iran starts
Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek experiencing power outages across entire city
Azerbaijan’s role in solving global problems is growing - Analysis
Azerbaijan organizes movement of working trains on Zangazur corridor (PHOTO)
Kazakhstan Deposits Insurance Fund raises maximum recommended rates on deposits
Uzbekistan’s Tashkent Metro suspends operations
Kazakhstan reports large-scale electricity power outage in Almaty
ADB and Turkmenistan working on SME exporters’ project
Azerbaijani currency rates for January 25
Uzbekistan shares data on sectors driving GDP growth
Kazakhstan appoints chairman of Central Election Commission
Azerbaijan's export-import operations up in 11M2021 - WB
Georgia increases food safety system backed by EU
TPPs to play less role in flexible power system, says IEA
ITACA Training and Research Center opened at Baku Higher Oil School (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani AzFinance company’s bonds listed on Baku Stock Exchange
Azerbaijan opens criminal investigation against 297 Armenian citizen involved in war crimes
Iran's TEDPIX records drop
OSCE PA representatives to visit Kazakhstan
Oil prices rebound as growing geopolitical tensions fuel supply fears
FMs of Turkmenistan and Pakistan talk preparations for session of OIC Ministerial Council
Iranian currency rates for January 25
FMs of India and Turkmenistan talk wide range of issues of bilateral relations
Bhavish Aggarwal-led Ola Electric valuation tops $5 bn with $200 mn funding
Iran is likely to have direct talks with US - Iranian FM
Iran plans to reopen closed production factories
Azerbaijani, Iranian delegations jointly visit Azerbaijan's liberated areas
Trade turnover between Kazakhstan, Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan revelead
TBC Capital updates its forecast for economic growth in Georgia for 2022
Turkmen Health Ministry opens tender for purchase of medicine
Russia's Azimuth Airline launches direct flights to Azerbaijan
S.Korea's daily COVID count tops 8,000 for first time amid Omicron spread
Announcement of 2022 as "Year of Shusha" in Azerbaijan by President Ilham Aliyev is celebration for all Azerbaijanis - Famous composer
No decision by Iran on direct talks with US - FM
Austria and Turkmenistan to intensify their dialogue and cooperation in 2022-2023
9,016 new COVID-19 cases confirmed last 24 hours
NASA's new space telescope reaches destination in solar orbit
Indian firm gets foothold in prized global ‘kamikaze’ and armed drones market
Heavy snowfall cripples life in Istanbul amid safety warnings
At least six killed in Cameroon stadium stampede
India needs an atmanirbhar electric vehicle supply chain before invites to Tesla
U.S. Navy pilot ejects, 7 hurt in F-35 South China Sea 'landing mishap'
Centurion tank, other weapons used in 1965 & 1971 to add historical flavour to 26 Jan parade in India
Assange wins right to appeal extradition to U.S.
Over 45 countries expected to participate in multilateral exercise Milan in 2022: Indian Navy
Burkina Faso army deposes president in West Africa's latest coup
Istanbul Airport suspends all flights amid heavy snowfall
India attends informal WTO meet to take stock of negotiations
Explosion kills 6 in southern Somalia
Country calmly to pass current winter season - Ukrainian president
Republic Day parade in India to showcase old, new era of Army
Georgia names main goods imported from Uzbekistan
Kyrgyzstan enters top 10 trade partners of Uzbekistan
Current situation in Ukraine is under control - Zelensky
Iran, Uzbekistan emphasize boosting customs cooperation
Gov’t to set up commission for project of Georgian cultural centre in Jordan
PM of Ukraine says no threats to functioning of national economy
Armenia sincerely wishes to normalize relations with Turkey - Nikol Pashinyan
Armenia ready to sign peace agreement with Azerbaijan - Pashinyan
Sudan security forces fire tear gas on protesters
Launch of Baku-Shusha bus route of particular importance for Shusha city - Special Representative of Azerbaijani President
Azerbaijan talks applications received by SMB Development Agency on creating business in liberated lands
Uzbekistan working to establish power supply in Tashkent region
Azerbaijan discloses annual turnover growth of E-PUL payment system for 2021
Price indexes of financial, construction sectors at Uzbek stock exchange fall
Toyota Caucasus becomes member of Business Association of Georgia
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 757 more COVID-19 cases, 302 recoveries
Turkmen livestock complex in Akhal region names volume of production
Uzbek company reveals volume of exports to French Bonduelle
Bank of Georgia supports new tower construction in Tbilisi
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise
Azerbaijan sees growth in local banks' total assets in 2021
Azerbaijan unveils number of businesses affected during second Karabakh war (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan's monetary base increases in 2021
Iran shares value of shrimp exports
Azerbaijan’s Small and Medium Business Development Agency discloses number of start-up certificates issued in 2021
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sends congratulatory letter to chairperson of Organization of War, Labor and Armed Forces Veterans
Central Bank of Iran shares data on country’s foreign debts
Iran sees increase in liquidity
Azerbaijani Small & Medium Business Dev't Agency talks about its activities in 2021
All news