U.S. forces raided an al Qaeda hideout northeast of Baghdad on Sunday and freed 41 Iraqis imprisoned inside, including some who had been tortured and suffered broken bones, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday.
The raid was part of a 3-month-old security crackdown that included the deployment of 3,000 more U.S. troops to Diyala, a violence-wracked province north of the capital that has been the site of heavy fighting in recent weeks, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
Caldwell said Iraqis told U.S. forces about the hide-out. "The people in Diyala are speaking up against al Qaeda," he said.
Caldwell refused to disclose the location of the hide-out, citing security concerns, but said the 41 freed Iraqis marked the largest number of captives ever found in a single al Qaeda prison.
Some of the freed Iraqis had been held for as long as four months and some had injuries from torture and were being taken to medical facilities for treatment, he said.
In Other Developments: Two more Americans soldiers have died in Iraq. The U.S. military says one soldier was killed in Diyala and one in western Baghdad when explosions hit their patrols. At least 102 soldiers have died this month, putting May on pace to become the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in more than two-and-a-half years. For a second day, U.S. and Iraqi troops carried out several raids in Sadr City, targeting Shiite insurgent cells in the Baghdad slum. One suspect believed to be involved in smuggling high-powered, armor piercing bombs from Iran was arrested. The new raids came a day before Iranian and U.S. diplomats were to hold rare talks in Baghdad over how to end the violence in Iraq. U.S. officials accuse Shiite-ruled Iran of training, financing and arming militants here, in a bid to fan sectarian tensions. Iran denies that and blames the presence of U.S. forces here for the violence. British forces stepped up pressure on Shiite militants in the southern city of Basra, carrying out an arrest raid early Sunday. During the raid, their forces were attacked with roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire, the British said. The troops returned fire, killing three of their attackers. No British forces were injured. The troops also arrested four militants. Meanwhile, in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, 70 police officers resigned Sunday morning and handed over their weapons. They cited their fears of being targeted by Mahdi Army militants, police said. On Sunday, gunmen in two cars threw concussion grenades at a popular market in northern Baghdad and then opened fire at shoppers, killing one person and injuring eight others, police said. Later, the same gunmen ambushed a minibus, killing the driver, stealing the vehicle and abducting six passengers, police said. In other violence, gunmen shot up the car of Lt. Col. Hiyis al-Jubouri, a police commander in the northern Salahuddin province, killing him and another police officer, police said. Gunmen also attacked a group of farmers in the al-Nahrawan district, 10 miles east of Baghdad, killing two and injuring nine, police said.
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