Iraqi-U.S. Forces Round Up Dozens of Suspected Insurgents
About 500 Iraqi policemen and troops and a “couple hundred” American soldiers raided buildings in the Rashid neighborhood, taking 65 insurgents, said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, the Associated Press reported.
One Iraqi soldier was wounded, but no U.S. casualties were reported in the largest U.S. and Iraqi raid in the capital since the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based division assumed responsibility for the city in February, Kent said.
Meanwhile, the previously unknown Omar bin Khattab group claimed responsibility for the weekend kidnapping of a Pakistani Embassy official, a senior Pakistani government official said Monday.
Malik Mohammed Javed, a deputy counselor at the Pakistani mission in Baghdad, went missing late Saturday after leaving home for prayers at a nearby mosque.
The group demanded money for his release, according to a Pakistani official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Javed contacted the embassy to say his abductors had not harmed him, reported the AP.
“Everyone is crying here,” Javed’s son Bilal Malik, 20, told the AP in a telephone interview. “My father has done nothing wrong. He was only going to offer his prayers. They are Muslims. They should release our father who is also a Muslim.”
Nine months ago, insurgents abducted and killed two Pakistanis working for a Kuwaiti company in Iraq. The kidnappers had demanded that Pakistan promise not to send any troops to Iraq. Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S. war against terrorism, has refused to deploy peacekeepers to Iraq and has urged its citizens not to go there.
Monday’s activity followed a weekend of anti-American protests in Baghdad, where tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims loyal to militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for coalition forces to leave the country.
The protest, which occurred on the second anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s fall, was one of the largest in the capital since the U.S. invasion.
Al-Sadr has cultivated a following among young, poor Shiites. Unlike Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has the broadest support among the country’s majority Shiite population, al-Sadr has pushed an anti-occupation stance, reaching out to Sunni Muslims who oppose the American presence, according to The Washington Post.
Many protesters arrived on foot, waving Iraqi flags, cheering for al-Sadr and chanting anti-American slogans.
The demonstrations continued for a third day Monday in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.