Wednesday, May 30, 2007

U.S. launches large-scale night raids in search for kidnapped Britons; Armored vehicles reported to repeatedly breach walls of houses

Above: At the scene of a March 15 raid in Sadr City, a Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for soldiers who searched through dozens of nearby houses in a hunt for a suspected militia commander. Yesterday's kidnapping was reportedly a sophisticated operation, with roadblocks set and buildings sealed. Anywhere from 40 to 100 gunmen took part, with at least some dressed in Iraqi commando and police uniforms. Official security vehicles were also said to have been used. The scale and sophistication of the raid -- which occurred in the well-guarded building without any gunfire -- suggested that there was collusion, if not outright participation by Iraqi security forces. Some fingers have pointed toward the Interior Ministry, which is dominated by Shia Muslims, and has repeatedly been accused of harbouring death squads. But Iraq's security forces overall are rife with shadowy sectarian activity. Suspicion also fell on dissident members of the Madhi army, the Shia militia loyal to the Moqtada al-Sadr.

U.S. and Iraqi troops raided Baghdad neighborhoods overnight in a hunt for five Britons who were kidnapped from a government building in an audacious daylight raid by dozens of gunmen, police and residents said...

The overnight raids covered a number of districts, including the sprawling Sadr City slum, the stronghold of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Residents there told of being awoken in the early hours of Wednesday as U.S. armored vehicles smashed their way into at least seven houses, demolishing walls to make way for troops who stormed in behind them....

Sadr city resident Abu Ali, an elderly man wearing a traditional chequered black and white headscarf, said his son was detained in the overnight raid.

"I was asleep when I heard them shout 'Go!' and they drove into my home bringing down the wall. They started beating us and telling us to bring out the four Britons ... We said we didn't have them, but they tied our hands outside and put the women together in one room," he told Reuters.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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