Iraq violence leaves 12 dead, Al Qaeda militants held

June 8th, 2008 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, June 8 (DPA) The Iraqi police captured suspected members of an Al Qaeda terror cell Sunday and seized many explosive belts ready for use in suicide bombings in western Iraq, while a wave of attacks across the country left at least 12 people dead and 39 injured. The suspects were arrested during raids Saturday night in the town of Hit, 130 km west of Baghdad, mayor Hikmat Jubayr announced.

Hit is in Anbar province, which was once the hotbed of Sunni insurgency and the main base for the Al Qaeda terror network.

Earlier, the US military announced that its troops captured a suspected arms dealer with alleged connections to Iran and who is believed to be a commander of an assassination squad in his hideout in Baghdad.

The Basra-based “special groups” leader was captured Saturday in eastern Baghdad by US soldiers on intelligence received from other Shia militiamen in detention, according to a US military statement.

The man is allegedly the leader of an assassination squad in the southern city of Basra, an arms dealer and a document counterfeiter.

The statement said the man has been recently involved in arranging the “transportation of criminals” in and out of neighbouring Iran.

A wave of violence left eight people dead and seven injured Sunday, including five shepherds in a desert area in central Iraq, following triple bombings in Baghdad that killed four and injured 32, according to the police.

Mortar shells fell on the main entrance of the ministry of defence in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, killing three people and injuring seven, police sources said.

The Green Zone is home to the US embassy, Iraq’s cabinet, parliament and several government ministries.

Mortar attacks on the zone has ebbed since a truce came into effect in May between loyalists of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Shia parties in the ruling coalition.

A sharp increase in mortar attacks on the Green Zone accompanied deadly fighting between government troops backed by US forces and al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which erupted at the end of March.

In the central Iraqi province of Wasit, five shepherds were shot dead by gunmen in the Nahrawan desert area, about 90 km south-east of Baghdad, a local security official told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

Gunmen riding motorcycles shot dead the shepherds and set fire to two of their vehicles.

The gunmen are believed to have links with Al Qaeda, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Sectarian-motivated incidents of kidnapping and killing of shepherds are not uncommon in areas where shepherds tend their camels or sheep.

Earlier, triple bombings across Baghdad left four police recruits dead and 32 people injured, four of whom were policemen, according to police.

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