BAGHDAD (AP) – American and Iraqi soldiers killed three Sunni militants Saturday and detained a dozen suspects during operations in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.
Two of the militants were killed in a gunfight in Sharqat, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) north of Baghdad, the military said in a statement. One of the dead was identified as a wanted member of a network that carries out bombings, the military said.
Eight others were apprehended in the Sharqat raids. The third suspected militant was killed Saturday in Kirkuk during a raid on a cell believed to have carried out kidnappings.
A U.S. statement said troops opened fire after an armed man refused to surrender and began “to move quickly with his weapon into a confrontational position,” the U.S. said.
Three others were detained Friday in the northern city of Mosul, including an alleged leader of an “illegal terrorist court” that meted out punishment and supervised suicide bombers, the U.S. said.
A suspect believed to have tied to senior al-Qaeda in Iraq figures was picked up Saturday in Bulayj, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Mosul, the U.S. said.
Al-Qaeda remains active in Sunni areas of northern Iraq despite suffering severe setbacks in Baghdad, not only by U.S. and Iraqi forces but also due to pressure from Shiite militiamen who forced thousands of Sunnis from mixed areas of the capital during sectarian warfare in 2006.
The terror movement also lost its major base in the western province of Anbar after Sunni tribes turned against al-Qaeda and joined with U.S. forces to provide security there.
Nevertheless, al-Qaeda remains active in scattered areas of Anbar. On Thursday, a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform attacked a meeting of U.S.-backed tribal sheiks in Karmah, killing more than 20, including three U.S. Marines and the mayor.
One of the Americans killed was Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai of Pago Pago, American Samoa, the commander of Marines in the Karmah area.
The attack occurred two days before U.S. officials planned to formally hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the transformation of a province that had been the most violent in Iraq.
U.S. authorities announced Friday they were postponing the handover ceremony because of weather forecasts calling for high winds and sandstorms, which would ground aircraft and make it impossible for dignitaries to attend.