- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

BAGHDAD — Gunmen kidnapped a senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official yesterday, and the U.S. military reported the deaths of six more U.S. service members.

The U.S. military also said Marines and Iraqi forces discovered a car-bomb factory and detained 36 insurgents during a weeklong military offensive that ended yesterday in western Iraq.

The offensive — dubbed Operation Quick Strike and involving about 800 U.S. Marines and 180 Iraqi soldiers — was among several campaigns in recent months targeting insurgents and foreign fighters in the volatile Anbar province.

The kidnapping occurred in Baghdad’s Andalus Square. Gunmen stopped Brig. Gen. Khudayer Abbas, who heads the administrative affairs office at the Interior Ministry, as he was driving, then forced him into another vehicle and sped away, police said.

Four American soldiers were killed late Tuesday when insurgents attacked their patrol in a northern Iraqi city, and a car bomb targeting a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol in Baghdad killed seven persons, the military said.

In the attack in the north, a Task Force Liberty patrol was investigating explosions in the area when a roadside bomb detonated. The patrol then came under small-arms fire late Tuesday in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. Five American soldiers and a U.S. contractor were also wounded.

Insurgents attacked the convoy with rocket-propelled grenades, damaging two Humvees and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, said Beiji police Lt. Ali Abdul-Hameed. Witnesses said the Bradley fell into a canal and that a U.S. helicopter transported the casualties.

A car bomb exploded in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliyah, killing four civilians and three police officers, police said. Another seven persons were wounded, including five U.S. soldiers who received minor injuries.

Also Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed during combat operations outside the capital. The soldier, assigned to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed by small arms fire near Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad.

The sixth soldier was killed by small arms fire during combat operations near Habbaniyah in northwest Iraq on Tuesday.

At least 1,841 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Twenty Marines were killed last week as Operation Quick Strike got under way Aug. 3, including 14 who died when their armored vehicle was hit by a massive blast near Haditha.

Nine car bombs were discovered during the sweep, the Marines said. Three were identified by a local resident, and the rest were discovered in a garage where insurgents were assembling explosive-rigged vehicles.

The factory was in the northern part of Haqlaniyah, one of a cluster of towns along the volatile Euphrates River Valley, long believed to be a stronghold of Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters.

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