6 sus­pected of smug­gling bombs from Iran cap­tured

Bagh­dad de­tainees may have brought in de­vices that can pierce ar­mor. Five U.S. sol­diers are killed in other in­ci­dents.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - By Ned Parker

bagh­dad — Five U.S. sol­diers were killed in at­tacks across Iraq, the U.S. mil­i­tary said Fri­day, and six sus­pected mil­i­tants thought to have smug­gled road­side bombs from Iran were cap­tured in north­east Bagh­dad.

Mean­while, a top Shi­ite Mus­lim po­lit­i­cal leader flew to the United States for med­i­cal tests. Ab­de­laziz Hakim, who heads the Supreme Is­lamic Iraqi Coun­cil, known un­til last week as the Supreme Coun­cil for Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion in Iraq, suf­fers from high blood pres­sure. A week ago doc­tors rec­om­mended he get more thor­ough test­ing in the U.S., a mem­ber of his party said.

Some West­ern ex­perts said the change in the group’s name was meant to dis­tance the party, which has 30 seats in par­lia­ment, from Iran, its chief pa­tron from its found­ing in 1982 un­til af­ter the U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003.

Three of the U.S. fa­tal­i­ties oc­curred Fri­day when an ex­plo­sion ripped into the sol­diers’ ve­hi­cle in Diyala prov­ince north­east of Bagh­dad. The re­gion has a volatile mix of Shi­ite mili­tias and Sunni Arab in­sur­gents.

The area’s se­nior U.S. com­man­der told re­porters this month that he needed more troops in Diyala, where forces have been plagued by ar­mor­pierc­ing ex­plo­sives known as EFPs, or ex­plo­sively formed pro­jec­tiles, that the U.S. mil­i­tary al­leges are smug­gled in from Iran.

The As­so­ci­ated Press, cit­ing Iraqi In­te­rior Min­istry of­fi­cials, re­ported that in­sur­gents Fri­day at­tacked U.S. and Iraqi mil­i­tary po­si­tions in Baqubah, the cap­i­tal of Diyala, but were re­pelled by Iraqi forces, backed up by Amer­i­can fire­power and he­li­copters. How­ever, U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman Army Lt. Col. Christo­pher Garver said the Army had no record of any such at­tack.

In south­west Bagh­dad, two U.S. sol­diers died and nine were wounded in sep­a­rate at­tacks Thurs­day as they con­ducted op­er­a­tions in an area where they un­cov­ered weapons and de­tained sus­pected ex­trem­ists. The mil­i­tary did not re­veal fur­ther de­tails.

The killings raised the U.S. mil­i­tary’s death toll in the Iraq theater to 3,409, ac­cord­ing to the web­site ica­s­u­al­ties.org, which tal­lies U.S. ca­su­al­ties in the war.

Fifty-eight U.S. sol­diers have died this month. The fa­tal­i­ties come with the U.S. mil­i­tary un­der heavy po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to show that its troop of­fen­sive in the Bagh­dad area is achiev­ing re­sults.

The sus­pected mil­i­tants rounded up Fri­day were thought to be smug­gling ar­mor-pierc­ing bombs from Iran to north­east Bagh­dad. The mostly Shi­ite area, home to Sadr City, is a strong­hold of rad­i­cal cleric Muq­tada Sadr’s Al Mahdi mili­tia.

“The in­di­vid­u­als tar­geted dur­ing the raids are sus­pected mem­bers of a se­cret cell ter­ror­ist net­work known for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the trans­port of weapons and ex­plo­sively formed pen­e­tra­tors, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bring­ing mil­i­tants from Iraq to Iran for ter­ror­ist train­ing,” the U.S. mil­i­tary said in a state­ment.

One of the de­tainees is be­lieved to be “re­spon­si­ble for the plan­ning and co­or­di­nat­ing of nu­mer­ous mur­ders, kid­nap­pings, as­sas­si­na­tions and at­tacks on Iraqi civil­ians and coali­tion forces,” the state­ment said. Garver, the mil­i­tary spokesman, said the net­work pre­vi­ously had been tar­geted by the Amer­i­cans, but de­clined to pro­vide de­tails.

The U.S. mil­i­tary also re­ported that it found two weapons caches Tues­day in north­west Bagh­dad that in­cluded ma­te­ri­als for ar­mor-pierc­ing bombs.

The Amer­i­cans be­lieve the de­vices, which can punch holes in Humvees and heav­ier ar­mored ve­hi­cles, are used pri­mar­ily by Shi­ite mili­tias, par­tic­u­larly fac­tions within Sadr’s group. Iran’s Shi­ite regime is al- leged to be aid­ing both Iraqi Shi­ite mili­tias and Sunni in­sur­gents.

South of Bagh­dad, U.S. troops con­tin­ued to search for three Amer­i­can sol­diers, in­clud­ing Pfc. Joseph J. An­zack Jr. of Tor­rance, be­lieved to have been ab­ducted Satur­day by an Al Qaeda af­fil­i­ate.

About 4,000 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel and 2,000 Iraqi troops were on the hunt one week af­ter the at­tack, which killed four U.S. sol­diers and an Iraqi in­ter­preter. The De­fense De­part­ment on Fri­day an­nounced the name of the fourth sol­dier killed in the am­bush, whose body had been badly burned. The Pen­tagon iden­ti­fied him as Sgt. An­thony J. Schober, 23, of Reno. On the ground, of­fi­cers vowed not to let up in their search.

“It is the same mis­sion. There is no letup or change,” said U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randy Martin. “I don’t see any scal­ing down of that ef­fort.”

Five uniden­ti­fied bod­ies were found in Ba­bil prov­ince, just south of the mas­sive drag­net for the miss­ing Amer­i­cans, po­lice said.

A source from the Sunni Waqf en­dow­ment in Basra said that eight Sunni men dis­ap­peared Thurs­day night as they ac­com­pa­nied an in­jured man to the city hospi­tal. Basra, in the largely Shi­ite south, is Iraq’s sec­ond­largest city. In the past, Shi­ite mili­tias have kid­napped Sunni men from hos­pi­tals.

In north­ern Iraq, a po­lice­man was killed in Kirkuk, and in Bagh­dad, po­lice said that 25 uniden­ti­fied bod­ies with gun­shot wounds were found dumped around the city. The pre­vi­ous day, 30 corpses were dis­cov­ered in the cap­i­tal.

Clashes erupted be­tween po­lice com­man­dos and gun­men on Bagh­dad’s air­port road, a place noted for vi­o­lence by both Sunni and Shi­ite ex­trem­ists. Po­lice said that one of­fi­cer was killed in the fight­ing.

In ad­di­tion, a car bomb­ing claimed the lives of two Iraqis in Bagh­dad, po­lice said. ned.parker@la­times.com Times staff writ­ers Saif Hameed, Said Ri­fai, Zeena Ka­reem, Ra­heem Salman and Suhail Ah­mad con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Maya Alleruzzo As­so­ci­ated Press

SEARCH CON­TIN­UES: U.S. sol­diers make their way through a canal, among 6,000 troops comb­ing the area for three miss­ing GIs.

Sabah Arar AFP/Getty Images

AB­DE­LAZIZ HAKIM The leader of the Supreme Is­lamic Iraqi Coun­cil flew to the U.S. for med­i­cal tests.

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