- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

From combined dispatches

TIKRIT, Iraq — U.S. soldiers stormed three houses near Saddam Hussein’s hometown yesterday and detained four suspects, two believed linked to the ousted leader’s special security force, the U.S. military said.

Also yesterday, U.S. troops of the 4th Infantry Division arrested seven suspected insurgents and seized about 50 Kalashnikov rifles during raids near Baqouba. Iraqi firefighters also extinguished a blaze at a pipeline in northern Iraq. Officials suspected sabotage.

During one of the Tikrit raids, troops questioned a man in his 50s who a U.S. commander said had worked in Saddam’s Special Security Office. The agency provided security for major regime figures.

The man was led away blindfolded, his hands tied behind his back. His 15-year-old son was released.

“We are satisfied we found the individuals we wanted to,” said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the Army’s 4th Division, which is based here.

The three raids took place about six miles north of Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit. Raids in the area often target those suspected of financing attacks on coalition forces.

The older man was “expected to be of great intelligence value,” Col. Russell said. “We cast a wide net; sometimes we get a dolphin, sometimes we get a shark.”

A detailed search of the man’s house uncovered a leather portfolio of photographs of Saddam and his sons at various official occasions. The man said he had left Baghdad shortly before the city’s fall in April and had come to his family home near Tikrit.

Earlier in the week, an Iraqi informer had pointed out the three homes in walled compounds as possible locations for explosives-making, Col. Russell said. The suspects were identified as bomb makers.

No explosives or bomb-making tools were found in yesterday’s raids, but the weapons uncovered at the three sites included several Kalashnikov rifles and a shotgun. A plastic bag stuffed with Saddam-era camouflage uniforms was also found at the older man’s house.

During the Baqouba raid, troops of the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment raided five locations believed to be insurgent training camps and storage areas, according to the battalion operations officer, Capt. Andrew Morgato.

In northern Iraq, firefighters battled the blaze along the pipeline north of Kirkuk for hours, finally extinguishing the blaze about 8:30 a.m. yesterday.

“There was an explosion, sabotage,” said Ghazi al-Talibani, a worker for the North Oil Co., operator of the pipeline, which carries oil from Zab to Kirkuk, 145 miles northeast of Iraq.

In Baghdad, Iraq’s central bank fired up its furnace and consigned thousands of bank notes bearing the smiling face of Saddam to the flames ahead of a massive currency swap to start this week.

Also yesterday, the president of Iraq’s U.S.-appointed Governing Council said it was still locked in dispute with Washington over plans to deploy Turkish troops in Iraq.

The Governing Council brushed aside a declaration by a radical Shi’ite cleric that he was setting up a rival government in Iraq, saying it was an empty gesture.

Muqtada al-Sadr, who is based in the holy city of Najaf, said Friday he would soon name ministers for an alternative Shi’ite government. Mr. al-Sadr has long been a fierce critic of the U.S.-led coalition and the Governing Council.

Washington is pushing for a new Security Council resolution giving the United Nations a broader mandate to try to persuade reluctant countries to help shoulder the burden of stabilizing Iraq.

On Friday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell promised a final push to secure a new resolution and said it could be clear by this week if this was in reach.

Debate over the U.N. resolution has also cast doubts on a planned donors’ conference for Iraq, scheduled to be held in Madrid on Oct. 23-24. But the State Department said the conference would go ahead.

Turkey’s parliament voted Tuesday to send soldiers to help police Iraq, but members of the Iraqi Governing Council say they reject the presence of troops from any neighboring countries.

“The subject is still being discussed with the coalition,” Iyad Allawi, the council’s president, told a news conference. “There are differences, and there is a determination to continue the dialogue.”

The United States hopes for a quick deployment of 10,000 Turkish troops in Iraq, but the move would be controversial because of the hostility of Iraq’s Kurds toward Turkey.

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