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Iraq Transition

Lawmaker: U.S. catching, releasing top terror targets

Story Highlights

NEW: U.S. has photos of half its high-value Al Qaeda targets, lawmaker says
• Iraqi forces snare four suspected of kidnappings, murders and mortar attacks
• Violent protests erupt in India after execution of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
• Police find 12 bodies in Baghdad, most showing signs of torture
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military already knows what half of its most-wanted terrorist targets look like because they have been apprehended and photographed in the past, a Republican congresswoman said Friday.

The United States is operating "a catch and release program for al Qaeda in Iraq," said Rep. Heather Wilson, a member of the House intelligence committee.

In remarks at the National Press Club, the New Mexico lawmaker said a senior official told her that the U.S. military already has photographs of "fully half of the high-value al Qaeda targets in Iraq" presently being hunted. (Watch how Congress is divided over whether to send more troops to Iraq Video)

"They're wearing orange jumpsuits in the mugshots we took of them when we captured them the first time," Wilson recalled the official telling her.

"We are operating a catch and release program for al Qaeda in Iraq. This is inexcusable and frustrating ... for the young men and women in the military who are in the fight," she added.

Wilson also joined a congressional chorus Friday calling for President Bush to reject a reported proposal to send another 20,000 to 40,000 troops to bolster the force of 140,000 already deployed in Iraq. (Full story)

Top Democrats have called the idea a strategy "that has already failed," and Wilson said quelling sectarian violence in the war-ravaged nation is a task best left to the Iraqis.

"I am not a supporter of a surge to do for the Iraqis what the Iraqis will not do for themselves," Wilson said.

"I also have not seen a clarity of mission, and I think that's the greatest weakness that we have right now."

Wilson's remarks came as the U.S. military announced that Iraqi special forces caught four suspected leaders of a terrorist cell during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Three other suspects were detained for questioning.

The men are suspected of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of civilians, the military said.

"They are also suspected of organizing and directing sectarian-based mortar attacks on neighborhoods surrounding Sadr City," a military statement said.

Sadr City is a stronghold of the Mehdi Army, a Shiite militia led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Execution backlash

A day after Bush said he wished Saddam Hussein's execution had "gone in a more dignified way," violent protests erupted in India and Indian-controlled Kashmir over the Iraqi leader's hanging.

Like Bush, the protesters objected to the release of a cell phone video showing Shiite guards taunting the Sunni dictator before his death. (Watch Hussein taunted on the gallows Video)

The protests, which have been going on for four days in India's only majority Muslim state, prompted police in Srinagar to use tear gas and batons to control the crowd. Muslim protesters pelted police and troops with heavy stones after Friday prayers.

The protesters also chanted anti-American slogans and torched effigies of Bush.

In the northern town of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, two men were arrested for allegedly hurling stones at tourists Friday. It was at least the second such incident since Saddam's execution, police said.

U.S. tourist Karen Maini said she "was in great danger" after a man threw a brick at her car while she was stuck in traffic in Agra.

"It was so loud and noisy and scary," she said of the protest. "My driver saved my life." (Watch how the Iraqi government is reacting to footage of Hussein's execution Video)

Other developments

• Police found 12 bodies, most showing signs of torture, strewn across Baghdad on Friday.

• The driver for Iraqi Minister of Agriculture Yaarub Nadhim al-Aboudi was shot to death Friday in the Dora district of southern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. Al-Aboudi is one of al-Sadr's followers.

• Mortar rounds fell in residential areas of eastern and western Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 16. Four civilians were wounded after mortar rounds landed in the city's al-Amil neighborhood, and four people were killed and another 12 wounded when mortar rounds struck a market and apartment complex in Zafaraniya. (Watch a Baghdad teen talk about growing up in a war zone Video)

• Unidentified gunmen attacked police officers in western Baghdad's Adel neighborhood, killing one and wounding another.

CNN's Sam Dagger, Joanna Karadsheh, Seth Doane and Mukhtar Ahmad contributed to this report.

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Rep. Heather Wilson says U.S. troops are frustrated "as all get out" by the release of high-value al Qaeda targets they now have to capture again.


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