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US forces arrest 60 in Baghdad clampdown

United States troops rounded up 60 suspected militants overnight in a security clampdown to stem violence in Baghdad and killed 26 insurgents in a rebel Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad.

The sweep through the southern Baghdad district of Arab Jabour targeted a suspected bomb-making cell linked to attacks across the city of seven million.

”The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks, like the attack in Mahmudiya July 17 that killed 42,” the US military said in a statement.

Beefed-up US and Iraqi forces this week began a systematic operation to claim back Baghdad’s most dangerous rebel strongholds in an attempt to restore security and shore up confidence in the new Shi’ite-led government.

Iraqi soldiers killed eight militants and arrested seven in a separate operation in the Um al-Maalif district of southern Baghdad, the Department of Defence said in a statement.

US officers now talk openly about the risk of a full-scale civil war unless they can calm conditions in Baghdad.

About 50 000 US and Iraqi forces are taking part in Operation Together Forward. Similar campaigns have failed in the past but Washington hopes to cut violence significantly by the end of September.

Little success

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in power since May, has had little success in bringing the country’s rival factions together, and about 100 Iraqis die every day.

A suicide bomber killed 35 people on Thursday near one of the most revered sites in the Shi’ite world, the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, in the bloodiest single attack since mid-July.

US Marines and soldiers killed 26 insurgents and wounded six in prolonged fighting overnight Friday in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said the military.

”Marines and soldiers … were attacked at multiple locations with rocket-propelled grenades, medium machinegun fire and small-arms fire from buildings targeting outposts in the north-west portion of the city,” the US military said in a statement.

Ramadi is a bastion of the Sunni-led insurgency trying to topple the government, and violence has also spread to the Shi’ite south.

Three died in a bomb blast in Basra, the country’s second largest city, where al-Maliki has been forced to tighten security after a spike in violence between Shi’ite gangs and militias.

In central Baghdad, police said two civilians were killed and three wounded in a roadside bomb attack aimed at a police patrol on one of the city’s main highways.

Iraqi soldiers detained 12 suspected militants in Amiriya, west Baghdad, the Department of Defence said.

In Baquba, 65km north of Baghdad, seven police officers were wounded in a roadside bomb and gunmen assassinated a police captain. — Reuters

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