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U.S. kills 16 insurgents in Kufa

Coalition: No evidence of wedding at strike site in desert


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Coalition troops clash with militants near Najaf, a holy Shiite city in southern Iraq.

The compound of Iraqi official and one-time U.S. ally Ahmed Chalabi is raided.
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KUFA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers killed 16 suspected insurgents early Sunday and found a large cache of weapons at a mosque during an operation in the city of Kufa, a stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia, military officials said.

Preceded by a heavy artillery barrage, more than 20 tanks, armored personnel carriers and about 600 troops entered the darkened city in south-central Iraq after leaving their base in nearby Najaf late Saturday.

The soldiers left just before dawn, a few hours after they entered the city.

CNN's Jane Arraf, reporting from an armored personnel carrier of the 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, described the sound of the vehicles rolling through the streets as "intimidating."

Four suspected insurgents were killed on the grounds of the mosque and the others were killed outside the walls, officials said. A tank broke down the mosque's door.

Aided by Iraqi civil defense forces, troops found AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, rocket launchers and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition, officials said. Some of the weapons were stashed in the minaret.

The soldiers had taken fire from the mosque in previous operations. It is not the city's main mosque. Soldiers also searched several schools but found nothing.

The operation marked the first time U.S. troops had entered Kufa since the insurgency began several weeks ago.

Officials said it was not aimed at capturing al-Sadr but at denying the Mehdi Army a safe haven in Kufa.

The operation lasted only a few hours, and the soldiers were gone before dawn. Officials said they planned to send in personnel later to explain the operation to residents and to repair any damage to buildings.

Another weapons search took place Sunday across the Euphrates River to the east, at a palace that once belonged to deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Coalition: Target not a wedding

A senior coalition military spokesman said Saturday that dozens of people killed in a U.S. attack in the Iraqi desert early Wednesday were attending a high-level meeting of foreign fighters, not a wedding. Photos shown to reporters in Baghdad support that contention.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said six women were among the dead, but he said there was no evidence any children died in the raid near the Syrian border. Coalition officials have said as many as 40 people were killed.

Kimmitt said video showing dead children killed was actually recorded in Ramadi, far from the attack scene.

"There may have been some kind of celebration," Kimmitt said. "Bad people have celebrations too. Bad people have parties too."

Kimmitt said troops did not find anything -- such as a wedding tent, gifts, musical instruments, decorations or leftover food -- that would indicate a wedding had been held.

Most of the men there were of military age, and there were no elders present to indicate a family event, he said.

What was found, he said, indicated the building was used as a way station for foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria to battle the coalition.

"The building seemed to be somewhat of a dormitory," Kimmitt said. "You had over 300 sets of bedding gear in it. You had a tremendous number of pre-packaged clothing -- apparently about a hundred sets of pre-packaged clothing.

"[It is] expected that when foreign fighters come in from other countries, they come to this location, they change their clothes into typical Iraqi clothing sets."

At Saturday's briefing for reporters in Baghdad, Kimmitt showed photos of what he said were binoculars designed for adjusting artillery fire, battery packs suitable for makeshift bombs, several terrorist training manuals, medical gear, fake ID cards and ID card-making machines, passports and telephone numbers to other countries, including Afghanistan and Sudan.

None of the men killed in the raid carried ID cards or wallets, he said.

"We feel that that was an indicator that this was a high risk meeting of high-level anti-coalition forces," Kimmitt said.

"There was a tremendous number of incriminating pocket litter, a lot of telephone numbers to foreign countries, Afghanistan, Sudan and a number of others."

Blasts rock Baghdad

A suicide car bomb exploded Saturday morning outside the Baghdad home of Iraq's deputy interior minister, killing six Iraqis and wounding at least 10 others -- including the minister and his wife -- an Iraqi police official said.

The death toll included three Iraqi government bodyguards and a civilian who were outside of Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Jabbar Yousif's home, coalition officials said. The bomber was also killed.

Shortly after 8 a.m. (midnight ET) the suicide bomber drove by Yousif's house in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Baladiyat and detonated the car as the deputy minister was leaving, police sources said.

Yousif and his wife received injuries that were not life threatening, said security officials on the scene. Witnesses said Yousif's face was covered in blood.

Seven mortar rounds landed north of downtown Baghdad Saturday afternoon, slightly wounding two U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian, Kimmitt said.

The soldiers were treated for their injuries and returned to duty, Kimmitt said.

Other developments

  • A senior U.S. official confirmed on Friday that the U.S. military operated a secret interrogation facility at or near Baghdad International Airport. The site had not been previously disclosed. U.S. Special Forces participated in running the site, he said. Two other intelligence experts have confirmed the existence of another interrogation facility as well. (Full story)
  • CNN's Jane Arraf in Kufa contributed to this report.


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