BAGHDAD — Deep within one of this capital city’s most violent neighborhoods, a door explodes with a deafening clap as a team of commandos from the Iraqi special operations forces (ISOF) pours through the shattered frame and into the targets’ home.

High on a rooftop overhead, a gunman cranks rounds into the darkness, sending tracers streaking toward earth like falling embers. After a brief, furious barrage of gunfire from the commandos’ up-armored gun trucks, the shooting stops.

Inside the house, the commandos have already cuffed and blindfolded their quarry — an aide to the notorious “Dr. Germ,” as well as her husband and their son.

According to the U.S. military, the trio have participated in a brutal campaign of intimidation. Their victims, according to the U.S. military, have been raped and beheaded on camera, the videotapes sent to family members as a warning not to cooperate with the new Iraqi government. They are also accused of financing insurgent groups.

Their apprehension early this month is just one of many raids planned and executed by the little-known 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade, a unit trained by and modeled after the U.S. special operations forces. The commandos, who are equipped with the latest U.S. weapons and armor, are one of a number of specialized battalions within the ISOF.

As the commandos tear through the living room and bedrooms searching for videotapes, photo albums and documents, the woman wails to the soldiers in Arabic.

There’s been a mistake, she tells them. She’s done nothing wrong. She is merely a humble schoolteacher.

The commandos are not swayed. One soldier finds a tattered snapshot of the woman standing beside an officer in the old Iraqi army. He hands the photo to a U.S. adviser who is supervising the raid.

“She’s got her picture taken hanging with a four-star general of the old regime,” the adviser says caustically. “And she says she’s a humble schoolteacher. How many humble schoolteachers do you know who hang around with four-star generals? We got her.”

The commandos find other incriminating photos as well, and scoop them into bags with other pieces of evidence.

Before leaving the house, an Iraqi officer finds a dusty Saddam Hussein wall clock. After staring at the clock face for a moment, the officer drops the clock to the floor. He mutters a curse in English and crushes the clock’s plastic frame beneath both of his heels.

“Saddam is finished,” he says.

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