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Iraq Transition

Officials: Iraqi minister's brother abducted

U.S. launches Operation Iron Fist aimed at rooting out insurgents

Troops patrol an Iraqi town.


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• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Acts of terror

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Four gunman kidnapped a man on Saturday who is believed to be a brother of Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, officials said.

Abdul Jabbar Solagh Jabr was driving in Habibiya, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad when kidnappers pulled him from his blue Opel, put him in another vehicle and drove away, a police official in the capital said.

Officials found identification documents in the Opel. The interior minister's office confirmed that the incident took place.

The abduction took place as President Bush warned of escalating violence in advance of Iraq's October 15 constitutional referendum. (Watch President Bush's remarks on Iraq -- 4:01)(Full story)

Operation Iron Fist

The U.S. military launched Operation Iron Fist in Iraq's western Anbar province early Saturday -- its latest anti-insurgent push, a military statement said. (Watch U.S. forces search for insurgents in Iraq -- 2:33)

Eight insurgents have been killed in the Marine-led operation, the military said, which is taking place in Sa'da, about 12 miles from the Syrian border. About 1,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors from the Regimental Combat Team-2 are taking part.

An initial gun battle began after insurgents in several vehicles -- one of them rigged with explosives -- attacked a Marine position with small-arms fire, the military said. Four insurgents were killed and a fifth surrendered to Marines.

In a separate skirmish, U.S. forces at a checkpoint killed three members of the Al Qaeda in Iraq group north of Sa'da, after the group attacked with small-arms fire.

An eighth insurgent was killed when an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter destroyed a vehicle after its driver fired on a Marine position with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Another vehicle traveling with the attacker was seen to be carrying additional RPGs and was subsequently destroyed by missile fire from the Cobra. The driver and passenger escaped the blast.

Marines also thwarted attacks, destroying a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Sa'da and a car bomb to the southwest.

A Marine squadron entering Sa'da encountered little resistance and only sporadic gunfire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, CNN's Arwa Damon, embedded with U.S. forces, reported. Marines were searching house-to-house for insurgents.

One family in Sa'da told U.S. forces that most of their neighbors fled ahead of the advancing Marines, afraid their city would become another Falluja -- a former insurgent stronghold that was the center of a U.S.-led assault in November of 2004.

Marine forces, stretched thin in the vast expanse of Anbar, some 30,000 square miles, for months have played a game of cat and mouse with the insurgency up and down the Euphrates River valley, Col. Stephen Davis, commander of the combat team, said earlier in the week.

At that time, Davis said U.S. and Iraqi forces were being moved into the region bound by the Euphrates River, Saudi Arabia and the Syrian border.

In the past, forces have invaded a city -- taking it back from the insurgents -- only to have the insurgents return once they have withdrawn. The only city in the area with a permanent U.S. military and Iraqi civilian presence in the area is the city of Hit, after coalition forces took control about two months ago.

"For the past several months, terrorists within Sa'da have escalated their intimidation and murder campaign against the local populace and city government officials," the military said.

"The resulting effect was an increased ability to move freely within the area and a base for them to launch attacks against innocent civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces."

Other developments

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed, bringing the number of U.S. troop deaths in the Iraqi war to 1,938. One soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad and the other by a mine near Baiji, the U.S. military said. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed when gunmen opened fire at their car in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad, and two Iraqi police officers were killed in a roadside bombing in Tuz Khurmatu.
  • A Danish soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra on Saturday and two others were severely wounded. Sheikh Saleh Hassan Ayash, a Sunni imam from the Arafat mosque, was killed by gunmen in the Ameen neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, police said.
  • Iraq's Justice Ministry released 459 detainees from Abu Ghraib prison Saturday morning. According to a ministry official, all of those released had been accused of minor crimes. The holy month of Ramadan is to begin next week, and pardon is often extended to those accused of minor crimes.
  • President Jalal Talabani, the top Kurdish member of Iraq's transitional government, claimed Shiite Arab Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is violating provisions of the country's transitional law. The Shiite-Kurdish coalition has been a major step in Iraq's road to democracy and any tension could pose problems for the government in the weeks before the October 15 constitutional referendum.
  • A 60-year-old Iraqi detainee died at Abu Ghraib prison early Saturday after undergoing surgery to treat failed kidneys, a U.S. military statement said. The man suffered cardiac arrest and died "after all life-saving efforts failed to resuscitate him," the statement said. His remains will be transferred to the family after an autopsy in accordance with standard procedure, the statement said.
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