Coalition conducts raids in two areas of Iraq, killing 20 insurgents

Friday, December 8th 2006, 8:49 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ U.S.-led coalition forces killed 20 insurgents, including two women, Friday in fighting and airstrikes that targeted al-Qaida in Iraq militants northwest of Baghdad, the military said. The mayor of the village, which was the site of a U.S. raid earlier this year, said 19 civilians were killed, including seven women and eight children.

In the south, more than 1,000 British and Danish troops conducted a pre-dawn raid in the outskirts of Basra, coalition officials said, describing the operation as the largest of its kind in the area since the war began. Five Iraqis, described as members of ``a rogue, breakaway'' Shiite militia, were detained.

In the coalition raid northwest of Baghdad, near Lake Tharthar in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province, ground forces were searching buildings when they were attacked. They returned fire, killing two insurgents, the U.S. military said.

Under continuing fire, the troops called in air support, killing 18 insurgents, the command said, adding that two women were among those killed. The military declined to specify which branch of the coalition was involved, but the U.S. provides the bulk of the air support in most of the country.

``Al-Qaida in Iraq has both men and women supporting and facilitating their operations unfortunately,'' it said.

Searching the area, the coalition forces found and destroyed several weapons caches, including AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-personnel mines, explosives, blasting caps and suicide vests, the command said.

The raid was conducted in an area where intelligence reports had indicated that ``associates with links to multiple al-Qaida in Iraq networks were operating,'' U.S. command said.

Amir Fayadh, the mayor of the al-Ishaqi village, east of the lake, and local police said 19 civilians were killed there during airstrikes on two houses, and Fayadh said the dead included seven women and eight children.

AP Television News video showed more than a dozen charred and bloody bodies laid out and covered in colorful wool blankets with concrete rubble left by the devastated houses.

This spring, a U.S. military investigation cleared American soldiers of misconduct in a March 15 raid in the village in which Air Force planes destroyed a building believed to be hiding al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents. Villagers claimed the soldiers killed 11 Iraqi civilians before calling for the airstrike.

In Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed an American soldier Thursday during a joint patrol with the Iraqi army, the U.S. command said. The death raised to 33 the number of U.S. forces killed so far in December.

In the south, more than 800 British forces and 200 Danish troops fought Iraqis during a pre-dawn raid in the Hartha area on the outskirts of Basra, coalition officials said.

British Maj. Charlie Burbridge, the spokesman for the coalition in southern Iraq, said five Iraqis were detained and described them as members of ``a rogue, breakaway element'' of one of the many Shiite militias in the area. He said the suspects were directly involved in several local attacks.

Burbridge called it the largest search and detention operation that coalition forces have conducted in southern Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

The Danish soldiers arrived from the north, and British ones with armored vehicles arriving from the south, Burbridge said. Other British forces reached the area on boats traveling to the junction of the Garmat Ali River and the Shatt al-Arab waterway in an operation that was supported by helicopters and jets, he said.

Two large mosques were near one of the houses that was searched, but the raid ended long before residents began to travel to them on Friday, the day of worship in mostly Muslim Iraq, said Capt. Tane Dunlop, another spokesman for multinational forces in Basra, the city in southern Iraq where most British forces are based.

The arms cache found in one of the houses raided included Katyusha rockets, roadside bombs, rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Dunlop said.

In Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, two U.S. Marines patrolling the city were wounded after coming under insurgent fire Thursday, the U.S. command said. After hearing that Fallujah's general hospital was seeking blood donations, other Marines searched its wards Friday to see if wounded insurgents were being treated. None were found, the military said.

On Thursday, a series of bombings and shootings killed at least 23 people in Iraq, including a 7-year-old girl and two college professors, police said. Iraqi police also found 35 bullet-riddled bodies that had been bound and blindfolded and left in different parts of the capital.