U.S. Troops Arrest 79 in Raid
Several Killed in Riots, Thwarted Ambush on U.S. Troops
By SLOBODAN LEKIC, AP
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Dec. 16) -- The 4th Infantry Division snared a leader of the guerrilla insurgency and 78 other people Tuesday in a raid north of Baghdad, not far from where Saddam Hussein was captured three days earlier.
Also Tuesday, President Bush said Saddam deserved the ''ultimate penalty'' but it would be up to the people of Iraq to decide whether he should be executed. In an interview with ABC News, the president also said Iraqis are ''capable of conducting the trial themselves.''
The United Nations, the Vatican and many countries worldwide - especially in Europe - oppose putting Saddam on trial before any court that could sentence him to death.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said in Baghdad on Tuesday that military planners were preparing for American troops to stay in Iraq for up to two more years despite capturing the former Iraqi leader.
The raid in the village of Abu Safa, near Samarra and about 60 miles north of Baghdad, began late Monday after insurgents in Samarra ambushed U.S. forces. The U.S. military said its troops killed 11 of the attackers who released a flock of pigeons to signal one another that the American patrol was in range. No Americans were hurt.
By early Tuesday, U.S. troops arrested Qais Hattam, the No. 5 fugitive on the 4th Infantry's list of ''high value targets,'' said Capt. Gaven Gregory of the division's 3rd Brigade. The guerrilla leader was described as a major financier of insurgents who have been fighting the U.S.-led coalition for months.
Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry, said all those captured in the raid were in one room and apparently conducting a meeting to plan future attacks.
She said U.S. forces also seized a substantial weapons cache.
''We got a significant amount of ammunition and weapons, perfect material for making IEDs (roadside bombs),'' Aberle told CNN.
Hattam is not on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis. Thirteen fugitives from that list remain at large.
Myers, in a visit to Iraq to meet with American troops and top U.S. officials, said Pentagon planners were focusing on a U.S. military presence for the next year or two.
''About as far as we're looking is through the next couple of years,'' Myers said during a stop at Baghdad International Airport. ''Beyond that, I don't think we can make any guesses. It's going to have to depend on events on the ground, how transition to Iraqi sovereignty goes'' and how quickly a new Iraqi army is organized. A stable Iraq is the key, the general said.
On Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded three American soldiers in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. A pro-Saddam demonstration in the northern city of Mosul ended in violence, with a policeman killed and a second injured.
In the Samarra ambush, two gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the Army vehicles and took cover among children leaving school. The attackers also used a roadside bomb, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades but inflicted no casualties on the U.S. patrol, the statement said.
Samarra, a volatile town in the so-called Sunni Triangle that stretches north and west of Baghdad, was the scene of an intense battle between U.S. troops and insurgents last month. American commanders claimed to have killed 54 guerrillas, but residents and police reported that fewer than 10 people - most of them civilians - died in the firefight.
Myers said he expected the guerrilla resistance in Iraq might dwindle after the Saddam's capture.
''When you take this leader, who was at one time a very popular leader in this region, and you find him in a hole in the ground, that's a pretty powerful signal that you're on the wrong team,'' Myers said. The capture, he said, ''will lend some oomph behind the notion that it's time for all Iraqis to pull together for one Iraq.''
The general said he didn't foresee an immediate drop in guerrilla attacks as a result of Saddam's capture but the did expect some intelligence gains.
''We expect it will take some time before we see any possible effects from what we've accomplished,'' Myers said.
In the restive city of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, several hundred armed protesters carrying Saddam portraits stormed the mayor's office Monday night, forcing policemen to flee, according to witnesses and the U.S. military.
When an infantry company from the 82nd Airborne Division responded - backed by tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles - guerrillas attacked the Americans with rocket-propelled grenades. U.S. troops sustained no injuries and killed one attacker, the military said.
Several stores were gutted by fire or badly damaged in the clashes.
In another pro-Saddam demonstration, a military statement said soldiers in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, killed three protesters and wounded two others Monday, after as many as 750 people rallied in a show of support for Saddam.
The statement said U.S. troops were fired on repeatedly and that one soldier was wounded.
Lt. General Ahmed Kadhem, deputy Iraqi interior minister and Baghdad chief of police, said pro-Saddam rioters in Al-Adhamiya neighborhood in Baghdad exchanged fire with the police late Monday. Four civilians were killed and two policemen wounded, he said.
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
Strafing from the back of a motorcycle and then hiding amongst schoolchildren to escape is a Palistinian MO....