U.S. forces raided a village near the Iranian border Monday in search of an Iraqi official who allegedly planned attacks on American troops, but failed to find him.
The former regime member is on the U.S. list 55 of most-wanted Iraqis and who has gained a growing importance as the coalition thins the ranks of Saddam Hussein's inner circle, said Lt. Col. Mark Young. Young would not name the target.
"Even if we didn't get the guy it shows there is nowhere that the coalition can't go and for these guys to find sanctuary," Young said as soldiers searched homes and vehicles. His 67th Armored Regiment's 3rd Battalion sealed off the village during the raid.
"If I was Saddam Hussein, I would be sleeping with one eye open and probably be a nervous wreck by now," Young said. "He's got to hear footsteps behind him."
Soldiers detained about 70 men and were questioning many of them late Monday, 4th Infantry spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said. Soldiers also found five arms caches, including mortars, tank rounds and artillery rounds, she said.
In other developments: A U.S. soldier was killed and two others wounded in a bomb attack in northern Iraq late Sunday. Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division came under attack from a homemade bomb in front of the police station they were guarding in Baqouba, 45 miles north of Baghdad, a military official said. British troops restored badly needed electricity to parts of Basra and supervised distribution of gasoline Monday after two days of protests over fuel and power shortages. Basra had been one of the quietest cities in Iraq. But on the second day of protests Sunday, an Iraqi protester and a Nepalese security guard were shot dead. A British patrol returned fire after it came under attack late Sunday, wounding two assailants, British military spokesman Capt. Hisham Halawi said. Two others escaped. There were no British casualties. Elsewhere Sunday, the U.S. military reported that four American soldiers were wounded in guerrilla attacks, including two at the Baghdad University complex and two others in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. One U.S. soldier died of heat stroke and another was found dead in his living quarters on Sunday, the military said. The U.S. military says troops acting on a tip from an Iraqi have seized and destroyed 24 rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and other weapons. In two other raids, U.S. forces netted one surface-to-air missile and captured 13 loyalists to Saddam. An Iraqi woman says American soldiers shot and killed her husband and three of her four children Friday night as they were trying to get home before a curfew. In all six Iraqis were reported killed. A military spokesman said he'd check on what he called a "serious" matter. There are more doubts about the intelligence claims that led to the Iraq war. The Washington Post says a number of Bush administration allegations were kept alive despite evidence they were false. The New York Times reports Defense Intelligence Agency analysts now believe two trailers found in Iraq were not for producing biological weapons. But new evidence of weapons of mass destruction soon may be revealed, say published reports. CIA expert David Kay, head of the U.S. weapons search, plans to release in mid-September evidence of biological weapons and missile development, say reports. The Economist magazine says new British evidence of biological weapons could also be published soon.
The raid, which the Army dubbed Operation Cliffhanger, began when the silhouettes of 14 Black Hawks crept in low behind a ridge just east of the village and dropped off soldiers who cut off escape routes the south and east.
Tanks rumbled in from the west. Apache helicopter gunships swooped down on the village as U.S. Air Force A-10 tankbuster planes and F-15 fighters flew overhead.
There was no resistance and soldiers from the 8th Infantry Regiment's 2nd Brigade searched door to door and entered each of the village's 40 houses.
The village, 30 miles from the border with Iran, is in a rural area where U.S. forces had not yet established a presence, Young said.
"To maintain the element of surprise, we intentionally had not gone close to this area," Young said.
The Army had been warned that its target had men on lookout and may have had anti-aircraft guns set up in the village, Young said.
In Basra over the weekend, about 1,000 protesters blocked roads with rows of burning tires and threw rocks at vehicles and British troops, who suffered only minor injuries, Halawi said.
"The town is calm this morning. People have had power since last night, and petrol is getting at petrol stations," he said.
According to The Times, the fuel shortages are a result of problems with Iraq's refineries. Most are configured to produce heavy oil rather than gasoline or cooking fuel. Sabotage and problems with electricity generation have reduced the plants' output, pushing the black market price of fuel in Basra to 50 times it official price.
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