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U.S. forces move on insurgents in Samarra

Patrols in Samarra have netted more than 100 suspected insurgents since Saddam's capture.
Patrols in Samarra have netted more than 100 suspected insurgents since Saddam's capture.

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SAMARRA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. troops Wednesday sealed off the restive Iraqi city of Samarra and launched a major sweep for insurgents, detaining 30 suspects in house-to-house raids.

The campaign, called Operation Ivy Blizzard, got under way in the north-central city a day after the capture of a "high-level target," who was believed to be financing anti-coalition attacks, and 73 other Iraqis. The 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Ironhorse and Iraqi police are involved in the sweeps.

Col. Frederick Rudesheim said the 30 suspects were picked up during a number of targeted raids and search operations.

Checkpoints have been set up to control and monitor access to Samarra, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Saddam Hussein's ancestral homeland of Tikrit.

Rudesheim said the majority of those arrested were targeted, adding that some people were more important than others. He said the military hasn't found any foreign fighters among the suspects.

"This is a clear demonstration of our resolve to control the city of Samarra" and hand the reins of power back to the Iraqis, he said.

American soldiers have fought off ambushes in Samarra twice this month -- on December 1, when the military said troops killed 54 Iraqis, and Monday, when they killed 11 attackers.

Troops continue to search for a number of high-ranking members of Saddam's former regime, including Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Number 6 on the list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis and the highest-ranking member still at large.

Explosion ruled accident

A U.S. soldier was killed late Wednesday and another wounded when their patrol came under small arms fire just north of central Baghdad, a U.S. military official said.

The wounded soldier was being treated at a hospital, but his condition was not released. Further details about the attack were not immediately available.

This death brings the total of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 460, including 314 killed by hostile fire.

Earlier, in Baghdad a fuel truck exploded after colliding with a bus at an intersection, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding some 15.

The truck exploded near a police station, leading Iraqi officials initially to suspect that the blast was an attempted attack. U.S. officials later said the explosion was an accident.

Video of the aftermath showed several vehicles on fire. By daylight, Iraqi police inspected two burned cars and a crushed and charred passenger bus, which sat in the middle of the road.

In the northern city of Mosul, soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division killed three attackers and wounded one conducting a drive-by shooting with small arms, U.S. Central Command said.

One suspect fled, Central Command said. No U.S. casualties were reported.

Central Command also said a soldier assigned to the 101st Airborne was killed and six others injured Tuesday when their five-ton cargo truck rolled over.

On Tuesday night, soldiers detained about 115 suspected members of the paramilitary group Saddam Fedayeen, including nine men wanted for planning and conducting attacks against coalition forces, according to a military spokesman.

Meanwhile, soldiers found weapons caches in Al Anbar province, the command said Wednesday.

In the town of Hit, troops found 200 anti-tank mines and 70 mortar rounds, the military said. Five suspected insurgents were taken into custody.

Central Command said an Iraqi train carrying U.S. military goods was attacked northwest of Fallujah with rocket-propelled grenades, burning three rail cars and blowing two others off track. Soldiers trying to secure the area were fired upon, but U.S. personnel suffered no injuries, the command said.

Northwest of Khaldiyah, a remote-controlled improvised explosive device detonated near a U.S. force, wounding three soldiers, the military said. Two suspects were detained.

Other developments

• President Bush said he believed the former Iraqi dictator should face the death penalty. In an interview with ABC News he said: "Let's just see what penalty he gets, but I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty ... for what he has done to his people. But that will be decided not by the president of the United States, but by the citizens of Iraq in one form or another."

• U.S. officials in Washington said one of the people arrested as the United States closed in on Saddam was found in possession of nearly $2 million. They added information from the man led to others, one of whom identified the farm hideout where the once-elusive Saddam was found.

• Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who was the public face of the ousted regime, has started calling his youngest son -- named Saddam -- Zuhair instead, according to letters obtained by the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat. (Full story)

• The United States, France and Germany have agreed on a plan to provide the fledgling Iraqi government with "substantial" debt relief, according a joint statement issued Tuesday by the three governments in Berlin, Germany. The amount of the debt reduction will be subject to "future agreement" between the countries, the statement said. Signs have emerged that the European countries -- which opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq -- are willing to help Iraq get out from under some of the $120 billion debt run up by Saddam. (Full story)

• The United Nations will aid Iraq's transition from occupation to sovereignty but needs greater clarity about what role it can play, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday. The capture of the former Iraqi dictator is "an opportunity for a new beginning" in Iraq, Annan said in an address to the U.N. Security Council. But the country remains a difficult environment for U.N. international staff, he said. (Full story)


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