U.S. Conducts Raids After Weekend Violence Kills Six Soldiers
Three Iraqis were detained for alleged anti-coalition activity, and the others for illegal weapons possession.
According to Major Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, troops also seized 220 hand grenades during a raid on a house in the town of Mukayshifa, south of Saddam Hussein’s hometown Tikrit.
On Saturday, one soldier, from the 4th Infantry Division, was killed after a grenade struck his Bradley vehicle. Two separate attacks on Saturday killed five other soldiers, in Khaldiyah and Fallujah, west of Baghdad in the Euphrates River valley.
Also Saturday, an explosion in Samarra — north of the capital — killed four Iraqis and injured about 40 people, including seven Americans.
On Sunday evening, the U.S. military lost its fifth helicopter this month when an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed into the Tigris River in Mosul, 25 miles northwest of Baghdad. According to a military spokesman at Baghdad’s central command, the cause of the crash remained under investigation and the two pilots were still missing Monday.
According to Aberle, the helicopter was on a search-and-rescue mission for a soldier whose boat had capsized earlier Sunday while he patrolled the Tigris. Two Iraqi police officers and an Iraqi translator were killed, while the three other soldiers escaped injury.
Aberle said a search for the 101st Airborne Division pilots is still under way. U.S. troops and Iraqi police set up checkpoints to isolate the search and rescue mission; according to witnesses, an Iraqi policeman was killed in a drive-by shooting while manning one of the checkpoints.
Another helicopter crashed near Mosul on Friday, killing two pilots. The cause for that crash is also unknown.
The weekend deaths bring to 513 the number of U.S. service members killed since the United States launched its war on Iraq March 20. Most have been killed during a period of insurgency from Saddam loyalists since President Bush declared active combat over on May 1.
The continued attacks came as U.S. and Iraqi officials said they had uncovered more information regarding possible al-Qaida terrorist operations within the country.
President Bush announced Monday that Hassan Ghul, a key al-Qaida operative with close ties to purported 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been captured inside Iraq last week.
“[Ghul] was moving money and messages around South Asia and the Middle East. He’s a part of this network of haters that we’re dismantling,” the president said. “He was captured in Iraq where he was helping al-Qaida to put pressure on our troops. There’s one less enemy we need to worry about with the capture of Hassan Ghul.”
President Bush’s comments followed those of the top U.S. commander in Iraq who accused the group Saturday of aiding in the more sophisticated bombing attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces.
“Those are typically tactics al-Qaida has been using. That causes us to look with a little bit more focus, trying to establish what their operating capability is in the country,” Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told Reuters.
“We believe that those links may be growing.”
Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Badran also told Reuters that he believed the terror group headed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, was operating in Iraq.
Badran says postwar Iraq’s borders are “wide open to evil forces,” adding that only 40 of Iraq’s 208 border crossings are manned.