Tuesday, September 15, 2009

US, Iraqi forces kill insurgent firing at American helicopter

Gun battle near Mosul reflects conflicts in North BAGHDAD - US and Iraqi forces killed one fighter, captured another, and seized a truck loaded with weapons in an area of northern Iraq that remains an insurgent stronghold, the American military said yesterday. American and Iraqi ground forces backed by a US helicopter attempted to stop a suspicious truck on Sunday near Tal Abta, about 50 miles west of the volatile city of Mosul, when insurgents in the truck opened fire at the helicopter, said US military spokesman Major Derrick Cheng. The helicopter responded with rocket and small arms fire that disabled the vehicle and killed one of the gunmen, Cheng said. A second insurgent was captured and a third escaped, he said. The truck was found to be carrying a load of weapons. The American military says Mosul - in an area of northern Iraq riven by conflict between Sunnis and Kurds - is the last urban battleground of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups. The level of violence in and around the city remains high even as it has significantly dropped elsewhere in the country. Yesterday, a roadside bomb targeting Mosul police killed a woman and her daughter, and another bomb planted in a central part of the city killed a police lieutenant and seven other policemen who were trying to defuse it, a local police officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details of the attacks. After Sunday’s incident, Iraqi police searching for the gunman who escaped the truck clashed with insurgents in a gun battle that left two officers and two insurgents dead, a local police officer said. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make that information public. Local police said the gunman detained Sunday is believed to be Yemeni. Cheng said authorities are still trying to be confirm his nationality. “While we have not yet confirmed the individual’s true status . . . any indication of foreign fighter shows clear evidence that there are external players interested in Iraq’s instability,’’ Cheng said. US and Iraqi forces have carried out many operations in Mosul and surrounding areas as they try to root out Sunni fighters. US and Iraqi officials have warned that insurgents are trying to spark a conflict between Arabs and Kurds already deeply at odds over the control of territory. American forces pulled out of populated areas earlier this year in keeping with a security pact with the Iraqi government, but US troops still regularly conduct operations alongside their Iraqi counterparts. After horrific bombings in August that targeted non-Arab minorities in the north of the country, General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, proposed deploying American troops alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces to help increase security.

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