By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 31 minutes ago
BAGHDAD - Former insurgents who turned againstin Iraq launched an attack against the terror group and killed 18 of its members, asking the to stay away while the battle raged, an ex-insurgent leader and Iraqi police said Saturday.
Most members of the Islamic Army, a major Sunni Arab insurgent group that includes former members ofA top Islamic Army leader, known as Abu Ibrahim, told The Associated Press that his fighters ambushed al-Qaida members near 's , joined U.S. forces battling in Iraq earlier this year, though some of the group's leaders deny any contact with American troops. on Friday, killing 18 people and seizing 16 prisoners.
An Iraqi police officer in the area corroborated Abu Ibrahim's account. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because of the situation's sensitivity.The insurgent commander contacted Iraqi police in Samarra and told them his plans to attack al-Qaida, according to the officer and Abu Ibrahim himself.
"We found out that al-Qaida intended to attack us, so we ambushed them at 3 p.m. on Friday," Abu Ibrahim said.He asked that Iraqi authorities inform the American military about his plans, and requested that no U.S. troops interfere, they said. He worried that U.S. helicopters might mistakenly fire on his fighters, since they had no uniforms and were indistinguishable from the al-Qaida militants, they said.
Friday's clashes raged for nearly four hours about nine miles southeast of Samarra, Abu Ibrahim said. Police said they knew about the battle, but were unable to reach the site because it was too violent. Abu Ibrahim would not say whether Islamic Army members were killed.The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
The Iraqi officer said the hostages would not be transferred to Iraqi police. Instead, he said he believed the Islamic Army would offer a prisoner swap for some of its members held by al-Qaida.Many Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents — some of whom once attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces themselves — have turned against al-Qaida, repelled by the terror group's sheer brutality and austere religious extremism. The uprising originated in Iraq's western Anbar province, and has spread to the capital and beyond.
So-called "Awakening councils" have sprouted up in communities across Iraq, where members swear allegiance to Iraq's U.S.-backed government and disavow militants. U.S. officials say the movement, along with a 30,000-strong American troop buildup, has been key in tamping violence in recent months.At the Abu Hanifa mosque, Baghdad's most revered Sunni shrine, voices blasted from loudspeakers Saturday urging residents to turn against al-Qaida as well: "We are your sons, the sons of the awakening, and we want to end the operations of al-Qaida...We call upon you not to be frightened, and to cooperate with us."
Meanwhile, roadside bombs and shootings killed at least 12 Iraqis early Saturday, police said, and the American military issued a statement saying a U.S. soldier was killed in Diyala province.The soldier, assigned to Multi-National Division-North, died from injuries suffered in an explosion on Friday, the statement said. Three more soldiers were wounded in the blast, and evacuated to a U.S. combat hospital, it said.
At least 3,861 members of theAlso Saturday, the U.S. military said its troops detained 10 suspects in raids across central and northern Iraq. have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count. The figure includes eight civilians working for the military.
The Iraqi death toll included four civilians who died on minibuses hit by roadside bombs on their way to work, police said.
One of the explosions, which missed the passing police patrol that was apparently its target, struck a minibus, killing two people in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
One of the victims, Qais Hassoun, was riding in a nearby pickup truck. He spoke to AP Television News at a hospital in thearea, where the victims lay on gurneys in a grimy corridor.
"We are just construction workers, trying to get to our jobs. We were riding in the minibus when the explosion went off," Hassoun said.
al-Qaida intended to attack them so we ambushed them at 3 p.m. on Friday Abu Ibrahim said.
Iraqi police & Army have learned a good lesson from the United States Troops about using a premptive strike to save their own lives, very good lesson.