U.S. Troops Round Up Iraqi Rebel Suspects
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Acting on intelligence gleaned from the capture of Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops rounded up dozens of suspected rebels during two days of raids in towns where loyalty to the deposed president remains strong, officials said Sunday. Two Iraqis were killed.
Smashing down doors, troops went house to house in Fallujah, a center of resistance west of Baghdad, early Sunday. Troops of the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment blockaded Rawah, near the western border with Syria, for a sweep dubbed Operation Santa Claws, the U.S. Army told Associated Press Television News.
Rawah was put under a nighttime curfew, while the towns of Samarra, 75 miles north of Baghdad, and Jalulah, northwest of Baghdad, were also targeted. Support for Saddam has been strong in all of those areas.
Soldiers arrested 60 Iraqis for questioning, and are seeking more than 100 senior members of Saddam’s Baath Party and insurgents the military calls ``terrorists,″ said Lt. Brian Joyce of the 3rd Armored Cavalry.
In one of the Rawah raids, a 60-year-old woman was killed when soldiers blasted open the reinforced steel door of her home, said regiment commander Lt. Col. Henry Kievenaar.
Troops patrolling in tanks, Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles seized dozens of AK-47 assault rifles and several rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Kievenaar said. They were searching for more arms and ``people who finance, supply and organize resistance to the coalition,″ he said.
Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said several hundred Saddam loyalists had been rounded up in recent raids. They include ``some of the leadership of this insurgency, absolutely, some of the cell leaders,″ he told Fox News Sunday.
Myers tied arrests to Saddam’s capture. ``Some of the information we gleaned when we picked up Saddam Hussein led to a better understanding of the structure of the resistance from the former regime elements,″ he said.
Saddam was arrested Dec. 13 near his hometown of Tikrit, and the U.S. military has said soldiers also seized a briefcase containing documents that shed light on the anti-U.S. insurgency. The CIA is interrogating him in Iraq; Iraqi officials say the former dictator is in the Baghdad area.
``The only word I have is that he’s not being cooperative. But other than that, I don’t know,″ Myers said.
In other news on Sunday:
_ Guerrillas fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. military convoy at a police recruitment center in Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad. The grenade hit a civilian vehicle, seriously wounding the Iraqi driver, said an AP Television News cameraman at the scene.
Some of the U.S. soldiers in the three-truck convoy were outside their vehicles when the attack happened but were unhurt, APTN reported.
_ The head of the Iraqi Governing Council met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said Syria is trying to stop fighters from crossing the border into Iraq to join the resistance.
Al-Hakim said his administration planned to sign agreements with Syria, a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led invasion, to improve security along their long, desert border.
``Syria does not want Iraq to be unstable and ... it doesn’t want operations in Iraq against the Iraqi people’s interests,″ al-Hakim said.
_ The higher education minister reported the U.S. military detained three scientists from the University of Technology in Baghdad for questioning about their role in ``military industrialization programs,″ a reference to weapons of mass destruction.
Minister Zayad Abdul-Razzaq Aswad said he complained about last week’s detentions to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq. But the scientists, who lecture at the university, were still in custody, the minister said.
Officials at the U.S.-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
_ And the military reported that U.S. troops killed one person, wounded one and arrested 36 people during an airborne raid in Jalulah.
Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division traded gunfire with about 20 guerrillas in the raid Saturday on the house of a sheik suspected of directing resistance in Jalulah, division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said.
Saturday night, the U.S. military said it detained 111 people in 48 hours in Samarra, including 15 suspected of directing attacks on Americans. In past raids, many detainees were released after questioning.
On Saturday, rebels firing rocket-propelled grenades hit storage tanks in southern Baghdad, creating fires that burned about 2.6 million gallons of gasoline, said Issam Jihad, a spokesman for the Oil Ministry.
The attack came as a pipeline exploded in the al-Mashahda area, 15 miles north of Baghdad, in what Jihad called ``an act of sabotage.″
Insurgents have targeted the oil infrastructure in an apparent attempt to undermine the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. The country is suffering from severe fuel shortages, partly because of sabotage, distribution problems and dilapidated equipment.