Iraq Soldier Backs U.S. On Deadly Raid

** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC IMAGE ** Bodies of Iraqis are seen lying in a Shiite mosque, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 26, 2006, in this image made available by the Associated Press Television News. Radical Shiites, said Sunday 18 people were killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces at a mosque in eastern Baghdad. (AP Photo/The Associated Press Television News) ** TV OUT ** AP

The Iraqi commander during a controversial raid by American and Iraq forces is backing the U.S. version of a battle that left 16 Iraqis dead, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News, the Iraqi commander says accusations that U.S. forces killed innocent civilians in Sunday's raid on a building in Baghdad were "not true."

Accounts of the Baghdad raid varied. Aides to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said 18 men were killed in the joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a mosque. Police said 22 people were killed in the incident at the al-Mustafa mosque. The Americans said Iraqi special forces backed by U.S. troops killed 16 "insurgents" in a raid on a community meeting hall after gunmen opened fire on approaching troops.

The commander insisted his Iraqi Special Operations troops had to fight their way into the target building where they killed gunmen guarding a hostage and found various weapons including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

"We know this, the building, is used for to capture the civilians, the civilian people, by bad guys and they need money," the commander tells Logan.

A man who claims he was held hostage in the building, says of his captors, "They beat me, they kicked me and they used an electric drill on me. I thought I was going to die."

At one point during the emotional interview, he broke down and had to be comforted, Logan notes. When asked about the militia men who were holding him, he said he was too terrified to say anything about them.

"If you go to the streets and see all the people who have left their houses and if you go to the morgue and see all the bodies then you will understand," he says.

For security reasons, neither the Iraqi commander or alleged hostage would reveal their names or if they were Sunni or Shiite.

In other developments:

  • President George W. Bush said Wednesday that Saddam Hussein, not continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, is responsible for ongoing sectarian violence that is threatening the formation of a democratic government. In his third speech this month to bolster public support for the war, Mr. Bush worked to counter critics who say the U.S. presence in the war-torn nation is fueling the insurgency.

  • The twin of kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll pleaded for her release on Arab television Wednesday, saying her sister is a "wonderful person" who is an "innocent woman." Katie Carroll read a statement on the Al-Arabiya network, noting that there had been no word from her sister's captors in Iraq in almost two months.

    "I've been living a nightmare, worrying if she is hurt or ill," Katie Carroll said, according to a transcript released by the Christian Science Monitor.

    "There is no one I hold closer to my heart than my sister, and I am deeply worried wondering how she is being treated," Carroll said.

  • Another mass abduction took place Tuesday, when masked gunmen, many in military uniform, stormed into a currency exchange and two electronic stores in broad daylight, seized 24 Iraqis and took tens of thousands of dollars. The kidnappings occurred within a half-hour, and police were investigating whether they were linked.

  • Elsewhere, gunmen killed three staffers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a drive-by shooting in west Baghdad, Abdul-Razzaq said. A mortar round struck just outside al-Sadr's home in the holy city of Najaf earlier in the week. The firebrand anti-American leader, who holds great sway among poor Shiites in Baghdad, was at home but not hurt in the Sunday attack, according to an aide.

  • Nearly 20 others, including a 6-year-old girl, were wounded in the capital in roadside bombings, mortar attacks, gunfire and an explosion on a minibus, police said. Gunmen also wounded an official from the Iraqi Central Bank, then later chased a car carrying five of the official's guards and wounded them as well, police said.

  • There were several attacks Wednesday in Diyala province north of Baghdad. Gunmen killed two civilians and wounded another in a drive-by shooting in the town of Khalis, 50 miles north of the capital, police said. A roadside bomb in front of an Iraqi soldier's home outside the provincial capital of Baqouba wounded the soldier's 7-year-old son, and another bomb targeted the house of a tribal sheik in Baqouba but caused no casualties, police said.

    Also Wednesday, gunmen lined up 14 employees of an electronics trading company in Baghdad on Wednesday and shot them all, killing eight and wounding six, police said.

    Politicians working on forming a national unity government postponed talks scheduled for Wednesday, saying they needed more time to consult their political blocs about what the security powers of the prime minister should be.

    The motive of the attack at the al-Ibtikar trading company in the upscale Mansour neighborhood was not immediately clear. According to survivors' accounts to police, the assailants first asked for the company's manager, who was not there, before shooting.
    The survivors said the assailants, some of whom wore police uniforms, identified themselves as intelligence agents from the Interior Ministry.

    Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in sectarian violence and by death squads operating inside the Shiite-dominated ministry since the Feb. 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra set off a wave of revenge attacks. Usually, the victims are killed in secret, their bodies discovered hours or days later.

    The assault Wednesday was the second to target a trading company in Mansour this week. On Monday, gunmen wearing military uniforms and masks kidnapped 16 employees from the headquarters of the Saeed Import and Export Co. Police said the assailants went through papers and computer files before leaving with their captives.

    In Wednesday's attack, the gunmen arrived at the al-Ibtikar offices in five black BMWs about 8:15 a.m., police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said. They burned parts of the facility, but didn't appear to have taken any money, he said. The dead included five men and three women.

    "All these operations have one aim: to freeze life in Iraq and sabotage the democratic process. They want to take us back to the dictatorship," said Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Khafaji, a deputy interior minister. He blamed al Qaeda and said, "We will work day and night to arrest them.
    • Joel Roberts

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