Troops raid Baghdad Sunni mosque complex

US and Iraqi troops raided a prominent Baghdad Sunni mosque complex and detained 18 suspects on Saturday, while a bomb aboard a minibus in the capital killed five people.In a pre-dawn sweep, troops raided the Umm Qura Mosque complex in Baghdad’s western Ghazaliyah neighbourhood to capture an Al Qaeda in Iraq operative “believed to be operating a terrorist media cell”,  the military said.

“The ground forces surrounded several outer buildings in the compound and secured them, capturing the targeted individual and 17 other suspected terrorists,” it said.

US forces did not enter the compound.

The mosque houses the headquarters of the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, a religious body known for its hardline anti-American stance and alleged links to Sunni insurgent groups.

The Sunni endowment, the body which manages Sunni religious sites, said one of those detained was the son of the endowment’s head, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour Samaraie.

“US forces raided Saturday morning Um Qura Mosque and arrested Ammar, the son of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour Samaraie, head of the Sunni endowment office,” it said.

“He was heading to perform the early morning prayers at the mosque when he was arrested. The Sunni endowment demands from the American forces his release immediately.” The Muslim Scholars Association also criticised the raid.

“The brutal forces broke into the headquarters before dawn and destroyed the computers, furniture and the lockers and stole its contents,” the association said.

“They also arrested and drove away all those who were inside.” The US military also announced Saturday the arrest of a former mayor and current city council member of Sadiyah in restive Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

It did not reveal his identity but said the detainee arrested on Thursday was linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq and was involved in a car bomb attack recently that killed 19 people.

The military also announced the arrest of two suspected militants who were brothers and a woman militant in Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City on Thursday.

The three, suspected of carrying out “extra-judicial killings”, are members of a breakway faction of the Mehdi Army loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, it said.

Insurgents, meanwhile, bombed a minibus in Baghdad.

The bomb exploded in the capital’s eastern Baladiyat neighbourhood located close to Sadr City, killing five people and wounding 11, a medic and a security official said.

Insurgent bomb attacks have continued in Baghdad despite a massive US and Iraqi military crackdown since February aimed at reining in the bloodshed in Baghdad.

Alleged Sunni extremists regularly target Sadr City, the impoverished slum loyal to Sadr, and areas around it in the ongoing brutal sectarian conflict that has engulfed Baghdad.

The US military said six insurgents were also killed and five wounded when a warplane dropped a bomb on a building near the town of Hussainiyah, just north of Baghdad.

It said its troops came under small arms fire from gunmen “operating from a structure near Hussainiyah” late Friday and it had call in air support which bombed the structure.

Meanwhile, three people were killed and 25 wounded by stray bullets as Iraqis marked the victory of their football team over Vietnam with a barrage of celebratory gunfire.

Iraq made their way to the Asian Cup semifinal with a 2-0 victory over Vietnam in Bangkok, in a match televised live for millions of Iraqi fans.

As the war-torn country’s team emerged victorious, a massive eruption of gunfire reverberated across Baghdad and several other towns as hundreds of rounds were fired skywards into the evening sky.

Interior and defence ministry officials told AFP that at least three people were killed and 25 wounded from the spent bullets falling to earth.

The progress of Iraq’s team in the Asian Games is a rare source of shared joy in a country wracked by political divisions, murderous sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency.

Such victories are traditionally followed by gunfire as security forces, militia fighters, insurgent guerrillas and the country’s heavily armed citizenry put aside their differences and fire into the air.

Four people were killed in other attacks in Iraq.

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