BAGHDAD (AFP) – US forces said on Thursday they had killed 25 suspected Al-Qaeda fighters and arrested 21 in a two-day operation in central Iraq.
The operation was carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday near the town of Tarmiyah, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Baghdad, a military statement said.
“During a series of coordinated operations west of Tarmiyah, coalition forces targeted associates of senior Al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders believed to be in the area,” the statement said.
“(US forces) observed several armed men in the target area and, perceiving hostile intent, called for supporting aircraft to engage,” it said.
Fighting by ground forces and strikes by aircraft killed 25 suspected Al-Qaeda fighters and wounded four. The wounded were among 21 people taken prisoner.
Two large arms caches were uncovered during the operation, the military said.
In a separate statement, the US military said that on November 4 it had arrested the leader of the “special groups” in Diyala province, northwest of Baghdad.
US commanders accuse secret cells of Shiite militias, known as “special groups”, of smuggling sophisticated weapons into Iraq with the support of Tehran and using them against American troops.
Iran denies providing weapons to any groups in neighbouring Iraq.
“Intelligence reports indicate the suspected criminal was the Special Groups leader for Diyala province and oversaw all logistics and operations in the area. He was reportedly responsible for smuggling and storing Iranian weapons, and associated with the largest explosively formed penetrator (EFP) cache found in Iraq,” the statement said.
“While he is currently being cooperative with coalition forces, he has allegedly used Iranian funding and training to support Special Groups activities.”