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Wednesday, September 15,2010

U.S.-Iraqi raid kills 7 in Fallujah, an insurgent hotbed

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

FALLUJAH, Iraq — U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a neighborhood in the longtime Sunni Muslim insurgent stronghold of Fallujah early Wednesday, Iraqi officials said, killing seven people in the deadliest joint operation since President Barack Obama announced the end of the American combat mission in Iraq two weeks ago.

The incident underscored how American forces remain engaged in offensive operations despite Obama's declaration that the fewer than 50,000 remaining U.S. troops would focus on advising and training the Iraqi military and police.

Iraqi police officials said that the raid, which also wounded three people, began when the U.S.-Iraqi team set off explosives around 1:30 a.m. in the Jubail neighborhood of Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad. American military helicopters supported the joint operation, according to residents.

Witnesses said that soldiers fatally shot several members of two families and raided the neighboring home of Yaseen Kassar, a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. Kassar also was killed.

U.S. military officials refused to comment on the operation, and there was no information on whether Kassar or any of the other individuals killed had been the targets of the raid.

A senior police official in Fallujah, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to journalists, said Iraqi forces had sent advance word that a raid was coming but didn't offer details.

U.S. and Iraqi forces seized four of the dead bodies, witnesses said.

Fallujah, the largest city in western Anbar province, was once a hotbed of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq. As the U.S. military has drawn down its forces in recent months, militants have tried to step up their attacks.

A fourth-grader, Ahmed Humadi, said that soldiers had shot and killed his father and three of his brothers at their home.

"They entered and started yelling and cursing us and all the women," Ahmed said. "I begged them to let me find my 5-year-old brother, Ahmed, and they let me. I found him hiding behind the bed, trembling and afraid."

Family members said that Iraqi soldiers had handcuffed them and held them for several hours after the raid and that other relatives remained in military custody.

Also on Wednesday, nine off-duty Iraqi soldiers were killed and five were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated outside the northern city of Mosul, according to Iraqi police officials.


(c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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