A suicide bomber attacked the main checkpoint to Baghdad International Airport on Wednesday, wounding at least 15 Iraqis, the military said.
The explosion shortly after 9 a.m. destroyed several vehicles, sent up a huge cloud of black smoke, and was followed by militants firing machine guns at security forces. It also underscored the difficulties U.S. and Iraqi authorities face in curbing the rampant insurgency.
U.S. soldiers captured four wanted militants in a number of separate raids since Monday, including a former spy in Saddam Hussein's secret service believed to be financing several terrorist groups in western Baghdad's Ghazaliyah district, the military said.
The former spy, whose identity was not revealed, also was suspected of working as a cameraman for a terrorist group, apparently filming attacks on coalition forces that later were posted on Internet sites or distributed to the media.
In other recent developments: U.S.-led forces continued launching strikes against foreign fighters near the Syrian border Wednesday, with helicopters destroying two buildings near Husaybah, 200 miles west of Baghdad, after ground troops came under small-arms attack, the military said. There were casualties among the insurgents, but the number was unclear, the military said. Seven people also were detained.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.
Iraqi authorities are trying to take the fight to insurgents, who have launched attacks that have killed at least 765 people, including U.S. troops, since the new government was announced April 28, according to an Associated Press count. Many of the killings have come as a result of suicide bombings, with about 100 attacks being carried out in May, according to an AP count.
An ongoing massive Iraqi-led offensive dubbed Operation Lightning is aimed at curbing the constant violence. According to Iraqi government figures obtained Wednesday, 670 Iraqis were killed in May, a 38 percent increase from April, when 485 died. The Iraqi figures do not include U.S. troops.
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