Friday, April 13, 2007


Al Qaeda stronghold in Diyala taken by Iraqi and U.S. forces

(Azzaman) - A joint U.S. and Iraqi force has retaken Bahraz, a major stronghold for al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq. Bahraz, a small town in the restive and violent Diyala Province of which Baaqouba is the capital, has been a scene of intensive fighting since shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country.
The Qaeda group in Iraq has been using the town as a staging point for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and also for the training and deploying of suicide bombers. The town has been exchanging hands between Qaeda fighters and U.S. troops with the inhabitants paying heavily in terms of causalities and damages.
The fighters only withdrew from the town after heavy U.S. bombardment in which helicopter gunships were deployed. An Iraqi army officer, refusing to be named, said at least ten Qaeda fighters were killed and “scores of suspects arrested”. He said the troops cordoned off the town and conducted house-to-house search for gunmen.
The inhabitants were apparently pleased with coming of the troops, but feared Qaeda would use the presence of U.S. troops in the town as an excuse for suicide attacks. The officer said the inhabitants pleaded with authorities not to let the Americans enter or stay in their town, while many young accepted the offer to volunteer in the Iraqi police and army to protect their Bahraz.

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