A firefight in Baghdad on Tuesday ended with U.S. and Iraqi troops surrounding a mosque complex, the Iraqi troops searching inside, and 11 men being arrested for questioning after weapons were found on the grounds, officials said Wednesday.
Any incident involving religious locations or figures comes with the possibility of sparking backlash among the Iraqi public.
The incident began around 2 p.m. with a drive-by shooting targeting U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment who were patrolling in the Mansour district of Baghdad, according to a news release issued by the U.S. command in Baghdad on Wednesday.
The soldiers followed the vehicle to the al Abbas Mosque in Baghdad and watched the men inside enter the building, officials said. The U.S. troops called in members of the 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, who surrounded the mosque along with the U.S. troops.
A neighborhood official then negotiated with the mosque’s imam in order to allow the Iraqi soldiers to search the mosque. Meanwhile, the news release said, the U.S. soldiers searched the truck allegedly used in the drive-by and found a machine gun, a sniper rifle, an anti-tank mine, rocket-propelled grenades and an RPG launcher.
Once the imam relented, the Iraqi troops searched the mosque and surrounding compound. Bomb-making components and a “large weapons cache” were found outside of the mosque, but within the compound, U.S. officials said.
Eleven “military-aged males” were then arrested and held for questioning.