Coalition forces destroy weapons cache
May 7, 2007
BAGHDAD — Coalition forces in Sadr City imploded a building containing weapons, bomb-making materials and a torture room Sunday while looking for a member of a Shiite-extremist group, according to Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top coalition spokesman.
The early-morning search drew gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades against the U.S. and Iraqi forces, according to Caldwell and a statement released Sunday by Multi-National Force – Iraq.
Eight to 10 shooters were killed and no American or Iraqi forces were injured, Caldwell said at a press conference.
The suspect has ties to a kidnapping ring and weapons supplier that works with others throughout Iraq and Iran, the general said.
The suspect was not captured, and Caldwell declined to describe him further.
More than 150 mortar shells were stacked tightly against the walls of the building. Moving those and the other ammunition found there would have proved too dangerous, so military bomb experts imploded the building, he said.
Before the controlled detonation, nearby residents were evacuated, he said.
The implosion was chosen to avoid an accidental explosion, Caldwell said.
“Had that thing gone off — when you start talking about 150 artillery shells — the extensive damage that it could have done killing innocent civilians in Sadr City would have been horrific,” he said.
The troops also found a room with bloodstained walls, a face mask and handcuffs, “clearly a place that had been used to hold people and to torture them,” Caldwell said.
At the press conference, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said that it is still unclear whether forces have recovered the body of Abu Ayyub Al-Masri, leader of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The Iraqi Interior Ministry had earlier claimed he had died.
Caldwell supported Dabbagh’s statement.
“We have been unable to confirm it independently,” Caldwell said. U.S. forces were unable to recover the body, so no DNA tests have been conducted, he said.