Iraqis agreed to help drive out terrorists
BAGHDAD — Tribal leaders in the city of Samarra met with government officials prior to this week’s U.S. and Iraqi assault on insurgents there, agreeing to help drive the terrorists out, according to the new government’s top security official.
About 125 of those insurgents — including foreign fighters, Saddam Hussein supporters and common criminals — were killed in strikes Friday and another were 88 injured, Qasim Dawoud, Iraq’s minister of state for national security, during a Friday evening news conference.
Wire reports said sporadic fighting continued Saturday. American military press officials in Baghdad were unable to confirm that Saturday, or to update casualty figures.
Dawoud said the new Iraqi government was intent on meeting with tribal and social figures in war-torn towns such as Samarra, Najaf, Fallujah and Basra to garner local support for ousting insurgents. In the case of Samarra, Dawoud said the government met with about 110 local leaders, who then asked for military intervention and pledged cooperation on Tuesday to “purify the land of Samarra of these terrorists.”
The local leaders included clerics, professionals and social figures, the minister said.
In the wake of the strikes, Dawoud said residents of Samarra could now “enjoy peace and the reconstruction.”
The United States has said it took up the campaign the request of the Iraqi government. About 5,000 troops — 3,000 Americans and 2,000 Iraqis — took the city hall and central mosque in Samarra. One U.S. soldier was killed and four were injured, the coalition has said.
Despite the talk of novel cooperation, Dawoud said that such agreements were not necessary for the new government and American forces to attack insurgent areas.
“Even if they did not ask us, we would have moved into the city,” he said. “It is our duty to clean the city.”
Dawoud also claimed that Fallujah and Ramadi would also face similar large-scale assaults, and claimed that citizens in those towns also support the new government.
Fallujah saw that prediction come at least partially true later that evening.
Coalition forces targeted a dwelling the military called a safe house for Abu Musab Al Zargawi, the Jordanian accused by the CIA and other officials of masterminding beheadings of foreigners in Iraq.
According to a Saturday coalition statement, about 10 terrorists were in the house at the time of the 10:53 p.m. attack. The released cited “credible intelligence sources” as having determined the house was an insurgent lair. It went further, saying no innocent civilians were injured in the attack.
“The Zargawi network continues to disregard the safety of the people of Iraq by hiding among them,” the statement read. “Multi-national forces accurately targeted this terrorist location while employing measures to protect innocent civilians and surrounding buildings.”