- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

BAGHDAD — Police found the tortured, blindfolded bodies of 33 men scattered across the capital yesterday and the U.S.-led coalition reported combat deaths of seven servicemen, a day after Iraqi leaders said the capture of a top terror suspect would reduce violence.

Assailants abducted Ghanim Ghudayer, a soccer star and member of Iraq’s Olympic team. Considered one of the best players on Baghdad’s Air Force Club, the 22-year-old was taken Sunday evening by unknown assailants, some of whom were wearing military uniforms, police said.

An al Qaeda-affiliated group dismissed the Iraqi government’s assertion that the organization’s second most important leader had been arrested, suggesting the man was not a senior figure and denying the terror group had suffered a significant blow.

On Sunday, Iraq’s national security adviser announced the arrest of Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, also known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, and said the arrest had left al Qaeda in Iraq suffering a “serious leadership crisis.”

But the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, issued a statement yesterday saying its “leadership was in the best condition.”

Al-Saeedi was involved in the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra, said Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser.

The attack inflamed tensions between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims and set off reprisals that have killed hundreds of Iraqis, including those found yesterday in Baghdad.

Police said the 33 bullet-riddled bodies all showed signs of torture and had their hands and feet bound. The men had been dumped in several neighborhoods, police said.

Two other bodies were found dumped on a highway in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Both had been shot in the head and chest, said Maamoun Ajil al-Robaiei at Kut hospital’s morgue.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council’s statement also said insurgents have been inflicting heavy losses on U.S. troops in western Anbar province and in Baghdad.

The U.S.-led coalition said seven of its personnel — five Americans and two Britons — had been killed in the past two days.

On Sunday, two U.S. Marines were killed in Anbar and two Army soldiers died from roadside bombs in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, and near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital. Another soldier was killed yesterday by a roadside bomb. A sixth American died of injuries not related to combat, the military said.

In the south, a roadside bomb killed two British soldiers and seriously wounded a third north of the southern city of Basra, said a British military spokesman, Maj. Charlie Burbridge.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett arrived in the capital yesterday on an unannounced visit, her first to Iraq since taking the post in May.

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