Key Iraqi Militants Nabbed

Fireman hose down a car damaged in an explosion after a suicide bomber targeting American forces exploded his vehicle near the heavily guarded main checkpoint to Baghdad International Airport Wednesday June 1, 2005. At least three Iraqi Airways employees waiting to go to work were wounded. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
U.S. soldiers have captured a former Saddam Hussein regime spy, the U.S. military said, and a suicide bomber attacked the main checkpoint to Baghdad International Airport on Wednesday, wounding at least seven Iraqis, police said.

The explosion, which occurred shortly after 9 a.m., sent a huge cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky, destroyed several vehicles and underscored the difficulties U.S. and Iraqi authorities are facing to curb the rampant insurgency.

U.S. soldiers struck a blow against militants plotting attacks by capturing four wanted terrorists during separate raids since Sunday, including a former spy in Saddam's secret service who was believed to be financing several terrorist groups in western Baghdad's Ghazaliyah district, the military said in a statement Wednesday.

The former spy, whose identity was not revealed, was also suspected of working as a cameraman for a terrorist group, apparently filming attacks against coalition forces that are later posted on Internet sites or distributed to media outlets.

In other recent developments:

  • Australia's mufti, Sheik Taj El Din al-Hilaly, returned to Baghdad on Wednesday in a bid to secure the release of kidnapped Australian hostage Douglas Wood, 63, who was detained by an insurgent group called the called the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen of Iraq about a month ago. Wood, an engineer who lives in California, is believed to be alive and well, al-Hilaly has previously said. The mufti's spokesman said Sunday that Wood will not be released until fighting subsides around the area where he is being held. Al-Hilaly, an Egyptian, declined to speak for security reasons when approached by Associated Press Television News at a Baghdad hotel where he is staying, but his arrival signals the likelihood that a development in the hostage drama is in the offing.
  • The U.N. Security Council extended the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq on Tuesday, saying it hopes Iraqi forces will soon be able to play a greater role and ultimately assume responsibility for their country's national security. In a unanimously approved statement, the council deplored the campaign of violence against civilians and Iraqi authorities, and re-emphasized earlier calls to member states to prevent the transit of terrorists into Iraq as well as the flow of arms and money to sustain them.
  • On Tuesday, President Bush offered words of reassurance for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's government as it pursued an Iraqi military operation to root out extremists in Baghdad. "What you're seeing is a group of frustrated and desperate people who kill innocent life, and we obviously mourn the loss of every life, but I believe the Iraqi government is plenty capable of dealing with them," Bush said.
  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday in an interview with CNN that authorities expected to put Saddam Hussein on trial in the next two months. Talabani said that "the court of Iraq will decide the future of Saddam Hussein" and that there was a strong public desire for him to be executed if convicted. Noting that he was a lawyer, Talabani said in English that he would have to await the outcome of the trial process "but the Iraqi people from now are starting to ask for executing Saddam Hussein and for sentencing him for death."