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Iraq Transition

U.S. troops find Baghdad arms caches

Iraq government says key bombing figure arrested

A U.S. soldier removes a weapon Sunday night from a barrel hidden in a garden in Baghdad.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers found several caches of weapons late Sunday and early Monday in raids on homes in southern Baghdad that authorities allege were being used as supply points for the insurgency.

The weapons were found by soldiers of the 5th Brigade of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, which has been patrolling the capital's Al-Rashid district, reported CNN producer Tomas Etzler, who is embedded with the unit.

Five people, including an Iraqi police officer, were detained.

The finds came amid stepped-up patrols in Baghdad ahead of Sunday's scheduled elections.

The soldiers came upon the weapons late Sunday after capturing a man driving a white Nissan pickup truck.

Inside the truck, they found weapons, a makeshift bomb and a two-minute video of a masked man assembling an improvised bomb.

Soldiers, who had been told to be on the lookout for such a truck, stopped it when they saw it pull out of a driveway in the Al-Doura neighborhood and begin following them.

Another unit was dispatched to search the house the truck came from. Inside, soldiers found grenade launchers, AK-47 rifles, artillery rounds, cell phones, bomb detonators and eight Iraqi police uniforms.

Using a metal detector, the unit discovered five plastic barrels buried in the garden 6 inches underground.

The barrels contained rocket-propelled grenade launchers with dozens of rounds, as well as dozens of rockets, AK-47s, machine guns, pistols, Chinese and Bulgarian hand grenades and more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition.

Bomb-making wires and other explosives materials were also found.

The driver gave military authorities three more addresses that yielded more weapons, police radios and ski masks.

The other four people detained were picked up in another nearby house, where boxes of medical supplies were discovered.

Suspect claimed Baghdad car bombings

The Iraqi government announced the arrests of several suspected insurgent leaders Monday, including one man they say has claimed responsibility for 32 car bomb attacks since March 2003.

Tha'er al-Naqib, spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said Abu Umar al-Kurdi was arrested in a raid January 15.

The announcement came just days before Iraqis are to go to the polls to elect a legislative council that will write a new constitution.

"Abu Umar al-Kurdi claims responsibility for some of the most ruthless attacks on Iraqi police forces and police stations," said al-Naqib, who said al-Kurdi was responsible for 75 percent of the bombs used in Baghdad attacks in the past two years, including attacks on the Jordanian embassy and the United Nations compound in August 2003.

He also claimed responsibility for a blast that killed Shiite religious leader Ayatollah Bakir al-Hakim and more than 100 others at the holy Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf in the same month, al-Naqib said.

The embassy explosion killed 11 people, and the U.N. blast killed 20, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special representative to Iraq.

Al-Naqib also said Iraqi forces earlier this month captured a man a day after he was put in charge of propaganda for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's organization.

Hassan Hamed al-Doulaimi, captured January 14, took over propaganda from Hassan Ibraheem, who was killed by U.S. forces the day before, the government spokesman said.

Al-Naqib further announced the detention of Abdul Satar Isma'il and his first assistant, Mohammed Abu Theeb, leaders of a terrorism cell.

The pair is charged with transporting terrorists and hiding them after they ran operations and attacks against security and multinational forces, al-Naqib said.

Car bomb hurts 12

Earlier in the day, the al-Zarqawi group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint near the headquarters of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, according to an Internet statement.

Baghdad police said the blast wounded 12 people, including 10 police officers.

The attack took place at a checkpoint outside the National Accord party office in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Harthia.

A representative from the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division said no multinational forces were wounded in Monday's bombing.

The attack, near the heavily fortified Green Zone, is the latest to hit Baghdad in the run-up to elections as insurgents try to keep people away from the polls.

On Sunday, an Internet recording claiming to be from al-Zarqawi condemned democracy as "the big American lie" and said participants in the upcoming election are enemies of Islam. (Full story)

CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the message.

U.S. officials have said the military is making every effort to respond to such threats as Iraq's election day draws near.

But American officials have also said they want Iraqi forces to take the lead in securing polling places.

The United States has placed $25 million bounties on al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, whose recent taped messages have endorsed al-Zarqawi's acts of terrorism. (Full story)

CNN's Tomas Etzler, David Ensor, Octavia Nasr, Cal Perry, Auday Sadik and Mohammad Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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