TIKRIT, Iraq – U.S. soldiers raided a dozen buildings in Saddam Hussein's hometown early Friday, taking about 20 people into custody, including a suspected local Baath Party (search) leader.
One Iraqi was killed when he tried to take a rifle away from an American soldier, according to Maj. Mike Silverman, operations officer of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.
The raid, the second in Tikrit (search) in as many days, began shortly after midnight when six Bradley Fighting Vehicles sealed off a neighborhood of houses and apartment blocks.
Soldiers broke down compound gates and doors with hand-held battering rams, forced their way inside and emerged with about 20 men, who were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs.
They were taken to an outdoor holding area in the neighborhood where they were interrogated by three Arabic-speaking American soldiers. It was unclear how many would be detained.
U.S. officers said, however, that one of the prisoners was a locally important official of Saddam's Baath party but refused to release his name for security reasons. Troops found several weapons and about $3,000 hidden in various houses, officials said.
Tikrit is the stronghold of Saddam's al-Tikriti clan and is one of the major centers of pro-regime sentiment despite the collapse of the former government nationwide. The city remains one of the major flashpoints.
Late Wednesday, troops raided a home in a Baath Party neighborhood here and arrested another man they identified as a local Baath Party official. His name was not released either.
"The message is consistent," Maj. Silverman said. "If you're part of the shadow regime, we're coming after you."
The prisoners picked up early Friday appeared to be mostly in their 20s and early 30s and seemed bewildered. One of them kept telling his interrogator "no fedayeen here," referring to Saddam's Fedayeen militia which fought doggedly during the early days of the war in the south.
Lt. Col. Phil Battaglia, commander of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, said the raid went well.
"We have some of the key suspects we came looking for," he said. "Some of these guys are continuing to terrorize people out there, and that's going to take a while to work through."
On Thursday, an Apache helicopter destroyed a truck after a U.S. drone aircraft spotted four men loading ammunition onto the vehicle on the east side of the Tigris River. The four Iraqis were killed, according to Col. Don Campbell (search), commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade.
After the attack, another 13 Iraqis came back to the area and were also seen loading ammunition onto other vehicles. Apaches were called back into service and attacked a building where the men took refuge, Campbell said. The attack triggered numerous secondary explosions, suggesting the building served as an ammunition storage center, Campbell said.
Capt. James Walker, 1st Brigade's intelligence officer, said U.S. officials believe Baath Party loyalists are trying to reorganize and stage attacks against U.S. troops in the Tikrit area.