BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – U.S. jets bombed two insurgent "safe houses" near the Syrian border Monday in an attack aimed at al-Qaida in Iraq, and coalition forces swept through several areas of Baghdad, taking nearly 100 suspected militants into custody, the U.S. command said.
Two separate mortar attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed three people and wounded 11. A car bomb and two drive-by shootings in the capital killed a construction contractor and wounded six people, police said.
The violence was the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni-led militants. On Sunday, gunmen killed Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, the brother of Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and a top trade ministry official escaped assassination in another part of the capital.
The U.S. command also announced Sunday that a Marine died of injuries suffered the day before in a roadside bombing west of the capital. At least 2,016 U.S. military members have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
U.S. Marines supported by warplanes and helicopters have been raiding targets in towns and villages near Iraq”s desolate border with Syria in an effort to disrupt Iraqi and foreign insurgents.
Early Monday, U.S. jets attacked a "safe house" apparently being used by a senior al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader in Obeidi, a border town 185 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. The jets also used precision-guided munitions to attack a second house suspected of being a base for attacks against American and Iraqi forces, the U.S. command said.
Its statement mentioned no casualties and did not identify the al-Qaida in Iraq leader by name. At the local hospital, Dr. Ahmed al-Ani claimed 40 Iraqis, including 12 children, were killed in the attack. But the claim could not be independently verified.
U.S. officials also reported a Saudi-born al-Qaida militant known only as Abu Saud was killed by coalition forces Saturday near Obeidi.
On Friday and Saturday, U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted several raids in Baghdad, detaining 98 suspected insurgents and finding large weapons caches, the U.S. command said Monday.
One cache, found hidden in a building in a second-story crawl space beneath a bathtub, included 13 AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, 20 AK-47 barrels, a pistol, U.S. currency and an ammunition stockpile, the military said.
At 9 a.m. Monday, two mortar rounds hit the Hamah intersection near Iraq”s Oil Ministry in central Baghdad, killing a civilian, wounding four, and damaging several vehicles, said police Mohammed Abdul Ghani.
A similar attack occurred in Bani Saad, a town near Baqouba city, which is 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Two mortar rounds hit a local Iraqi army headquarters, killing two soldiers and wounding seven, police said.
Recently insurgents, who often use roadside bombs and suicide bombers in their attacks, appear to have been firing more mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in their strikes.
Gunmen seriously wounded police Maj. Hazim Shebib and his driver in an attack early Monday morning in Dora, one of Baghdad”s most violent areas, said police Capt. Talib Thamir.
In a weekend interview with U.S. cable television station FOX News, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani complained that American commanders were stalling on giving Iraqi forces a bigger role in battling the insurgents.
"We ask them for things to change, they agree, and then nothing happens," Talabani said. He said the Iraqis would prefer for coalition forces to concentrate on protecting oil pipelines and other key infrastructure.
Fox said the U.S. military declined comment on Talabani”s remarks.