Iraqi police arrest 60 insurgents


Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 10:44 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi forces clashed with insurgents Friday near the notorious airport road and other districts of western Baghdad, arresting nearly 60 people as the sounds of a rousing song, "Where are the terrorists now?" blared from police car loudspeakers.
The fiercest clashes occurred in the Jihad district along the main road to Baghdad International Airport - scene of numerous bombings and ambushes.
U.S. attack helicopters roamed the skies and the rattle of automatic weapons fire echoed through the streets as motorists abandoned their vehicles and merchants shuttered their shops.
Iraqi troops armed with rifles and machine guns blocked access to the areas where security operations were under way. However, residents reported seeing insurgent snipers on rooftops in the Jihad area and masked gunmen, some armed with rocket-propelled grenades, in the alleyways.
An Associated Press photographer watched as gunmen shot dead two men trying to flee the area. Residents said the two were killed because they were collaborating with the Americans.
In the Saydiyah neighborhood, witnesses saw police hustle about a dozen men, blindfolded and handcuffed, into pickup trucks and driven away, while police car loudspeakers blared the lyrics to a commando fight song - "Oh God, you protected the homeland, where are the terrorists now?"
Police said about 60 people had been arrested in the various confrontations. There was no word on casualties.
Raids by Shiite-led government security forces into Sunni neighborhoods have sharpened sectarian tensions as Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians are trying under intensive U.S. pressure to organize a new broad-based government after last month's elections.
U.S. officials hope such a government can win the trust of Sunni Arabs and lure them away from the Sunni-dominated insurgency. Sunni politicians have insisted on changes in the leadership of the security forces before they will join the government.
During a sermon Friday at the Umm al-Qura mosque, Sunni cleric Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie condemned raids into Sunni communities by "death squads wearing police uniforms."
"Should an Iraqi man surrender? If he surrenders, he will be detained and tortured. If he resists, he will be considered a terrorist," al-Samaraie said.
Two Germans taken hostage in northern Iraq on Tuesday appealed to their government to help win their release in a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned "this cruel kidnapping" and called for their release "without delay."
The tape was the first sign of the two men since they were seized in Beiji, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, by gunmen wearing military uniforms. The engineers, who work for a company in Leipzig, were kidnapped only two days after arriving in Iraq.
The Germans, identified by relatives as Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich, were seated on the floor in front of at least four armed men. The timer visible on the tape indicated it was made less than two hours after they were kidnapped.
Each German could be seen speaking on the tape, but Al-Jazeera did not broadcast any audio.
A handwritten black banner was shown on the tape reading: "Supporters of Tawhid and Sunnah Brigades," a previously unknown group. Tawhid is the Arabic word for monotheism and Sunnah refers to the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.
"The (German) government condemns this cruel kidnapping in the strongest possible terms," Merkel said after the video was aired. "We appeal urgently to the perpetrators to release our two compatriots without delay."
At least five foreigners have been kidnapped this month: the Germans, two Kenyan engineers and American journalist Jill Carroll.
Carroll's kidnappers have threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women are freed from custody. The U.S. military released five Iraqi women Thursday but said the move was unrelated to the kidnappers' demand.
Meanwhile, the governor of the southern city of Basra threatened to stop dealing with British forces unless they release five Iraqi men detained Tuesday. The five include policemen suspected of links to local killings and kidnappings blamed on Shiite militias.
Gov. Mohammed al-Waeli called for a mass demonstration Sunday outside the British consulate to demand the release of the five men. Nine others have been freed.
Several hours after his call, a market bombing killed one woman and wounded three others, police said. Witnesses claimed a man stepped out of a police vehicle and planted the bomb.
In other violence reported by officials: - Two Iraqi soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the northern city of Tal Afar and a policeman died in a gunfight with insurgents in the northern city of Mosul.
- A roadside bomb in Youssifiyah, south of Baghdad, missed a U.S. military patrol but killed two Iraqi civilians.
- An Iraqi woman was shot dead in western Baghdad's Baiyaa district by policemen firing into the air while trying to clear blocked traffic.
- In Baghdad's southern neighborhood of Dora, two gunmen entered a barber shop and killed a man waiting for a haircut. Shortly afterward, men firing from two speeding cars killed a driver for the Higher Education Ministry in the same neighborhood.
- Police found a man's bullet-riddled body in a car in western Baghdad. Identity cards indicated he was an interpreter for the U.S. military.

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