2 key militants killed, U.S. says

May 05, 2007|By Tina Susman | Tina Susman,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- A U.S. offensive dubbed Operation Rat Trap killed two important al-Qaida-linked militants in addition to the insurgent propaganda chief whose death was announced earlier, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Also yesterday, the military announced the death of a U.S. Marine when a roadside bomb went off south of Baghdad. No other details of the attack were given.

It brought to at least 3,358 the number of American forces killed in Iraq since March 2003, according to www.icasualties.org, which tracks war-related deaths.

At least 13 people, including five police officers, died in bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. In the most serious incident, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in southwest Baghdad killed five officers and injured three. A car bomb and two roadside bombs went off overnight in Kirkuk, killing six Iraqis and injuring at least 33, police said.

Also yesterday, two mortar shells fell in a residential area southeast of Baghdad, killing two people.

A daytime ban on vehicular traffic on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest, usually keeps violence at bay and casualty tolls low. Still, the incidents were reminders of the dangers facing Iraqis every day, despite implementation of a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in mid-February.

Military officials blame much of the violence since the crackdown on Sunni Muslim insurgents loyal to al-Qaida, and they launched Operation Rat Trap earlier this week. Yesterday, they identified two more alleged insurgents killed during fighting Tuesday north of Baghdad. A statement said they were Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi and Abu Ammar al-Masri.

Shihawi, who also went by the names Sabah Alwani and Abu Nuri, was a close associate of Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri. Al-Jubouri had served as the "information minister" for a coalition of insurgent groups calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq.

He was believed to have been involved in the abduction of westerners in Iraq, including American journalist Jill Carroll in January 2006 and Virginia peace activist Tom Fox in November 2005. Carroll was freed after 82 days in captivity. Fox was found murdered in Baghdad in March 2006.

Al-Jubouri was also killed Tuesday, and his death was announced Thursday.

Yesterday's military statement identified al-Masri as a foreign fighter involved in planning insurgent attacks and providing support for al-Qaida in Iraq, the most powerful of the insurgent groups in the Islamic State of Iraq. He is different from Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, who is at large.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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