Published December 19, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. Army units in Baghdad rounded up a Fedayeen (search) cell in northern Baghdad on Friday, seizing a significant number of explosive devices that were readied for a strike against coalition forces, Fox News has learned.
The raid is believed to have been launched based on leads from the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the military said.
Meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers were wounded Friday when a U.S. military tanker truck was hit with a homemade explosive on a road outside Baghdad on Friday, the military said. Earlier witness reports claimed that two U.S. soldiers were killed in the explosion and one wounded.
And Fox News has learned that the U.S. military recently rounded up several Al Qaeda (search) operatives trying to enter Iraq.
In Friday's Baghdad raid, nine cell members, including the guerrilla leader, were arrested at dawn. The gang leader was responsible for coordinating three different cells, according to Lt. Col. Garry Bishop of the 1st Armored Division (search).
The raid was based on a tip from an informant and resulted in the capture of rockets, anti-tank missiles, explosives, timing devices and six 100-pound barrels of fertilizer.
It's thought there were enough weapons and ammunition to launch an attack comparable to the October homicide truck-bomb attack on the Red Cross.
"The suspected attack time was tomorrow [Saturday] night," Bishop told Fox News. "The information we received, we believe, is a fallout from information gleaned from the capture of Saddam, which identified certain cell leaders throughout the Baghdad area."
Navy Rounds Up Al Qaeda
U.S. Navy officials told Fox News that two interdictions have taken place in the Persian Gulf, resulting in the capture of four suspected Al Qaeda operatives.
One suspect was allegedly trying to enter Iraq. Three were caught with a boat full of drugs, including heroin and hashish. It's believed that they were trafficking drugs as a means of funding terror activities throughout the region as other money supplies dry up. Navy intelligence is still investigating the incidents.
U.S. Central Command issued a statement later Friday, saying the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur intercepted the boat on Monday. On board were two tons of drugs worth an estimated $8 million to $10 million and 12 people, four of whom have suspected ties to Al Qaeda.
The boat, a wooden vessel known as a dhow, was near the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow part of the gulf between Iran and Oman, the statement said. The area is a known smuggling route used by Usama bin Laden's terrorist network.
American forces searching the boat found 54 70-pound bags of hashish, the statement said. The investigation which followed found clear ties between the drugs and Al Qaeda, the military said.
The Decatur is part of a U.S. Navy force including the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
Meanwhile, L. Paul Bremer (search), the U.S. administrator of Iraq, escaped a rebel ambush on his convoy on Dec. 6, the day of a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but nobody was injured, a spokesman said Friday.
"As you can see, it didn't succeed," Bremer told reporters Friday in Basra.
Bremer was riding in an armored civilian vehicle when a roadside bomb exploded and guerrillas attacked with small arms fire, said Dan Senor, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.
The convoy sped off and no one was injured in the attack, which took place on a stretch of highway in west Baghdad near the airport. Bremer has not curtailed his schedule of touring Iraq since the incident, and he traveled to the southern city of Basra on Friday, Senor said.
Raids Net Anti-Coalition Guerrillas
In the past 24 hours, U.S. forces conducted 1,600 raids and captured 107 anti-coalition suspects, the military said Friday.
Also, 18 senior Baath Party members were turned over by the Talifar police chief on Wednesday, the military said. Two of them have been released and the others remain in custody. And in Mosul, two "targeted individuals" -- Yemeni students -- were captured on Thursday. And in the north central part of the country, U.S. forces conducted 213 patrols, eight raids and captured 38 suspected anti-coalition guerrillas.
During Operation Ivy Blizzard in Samarra over the past few days, U.S. forces have conducted 19 raids and captured 111 suspected guerrillas.
Some 140 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division also raided a middle-class neighborhood near Baghdad's airport overnight and arrested five of seven suspected guerrillas, the military said Friday.
They included a suspected bomb-maker, said the raid commander, Capt. Joel Kostelac.
Bomb Hits U.S. Tankers
Capt. Tammy Galloway of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division said a homemade explosive device exploded on the roadside as a military truck was passing on Friday, wounding two U.S. soldiers.
Iraqi witnesses said earlier that it was an oil tanker and that two soldiers were killed in the blast.
In other violence on Friday, an Iraqi woman died as another blast hit the office of a major Shiite party.
The predawn attack on the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution Party (search) office, which also wounded five others, came a day after Shiites buried a senior politician assassinated Wednesday as he left his home in Baghdad.
Officials of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution party blamed both attacks on loyalists of Saddam Hussein, who was captured by U.S. forces on Saturday.
Supreme Council members were rushing to the scene, and an anti-Saddam rally was planned in the capital later Friday.
The tanker truck blew up about 7:50 a.m. and television footage showed clouds of black smoke rising from the tanker near Abu Ghraib, about 20 miles west of Baghdad.
U.S. Soldier Killed
On Thursday, the military reported that rebels had killed a U.S. soldier in the first fatal ambush for the U.S. military since Saddam's capture.
The soldier was killed late Wednesday when a 1st Armored Division patrol came under fire in northwest Baghdad, the military said. A second soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.
According to official reports, 314 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat since the war began March 20, including 199 since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1. Another 144 soldiers have died in non-hostile incidents, according to the Pentagon.
Several attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi police in recent days have claimed more than a dozen lives in Baghdad and in predominantly Sunni areas west and north of the capital, once Saddam's power base.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Thursday for a Jan. 15 meeting of major players to discuss what role the international body might play when Iraq makes the transition from U.S. occupation.
Frustrated that neither the Iraqi Governing Council nor the U.S.-led coalition running the country have given him specific answers, Annan said it was time to sit down with representatives from both bodies.
"It has to be a three-way conversation," he said. "Once we have that, I will make a judgment."
Meanwhile, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Fedotov said the fate of Russian companies and economic interests in Iraq will affect Moscow's position in talks on relieving Baghdad's massive international debt burden.
His comments came a day after President Vladimir Putin told a U.S. envoy that Russia is willing to start negotiations on relieving Iraq's $8 billion in debt to Moscow, its largest creditor.
While the debt talks and the participation of Russian companies in postwar Iraq are separate issues, "progress in settling one of them will undoubtedly help reach success in talks about the other," Fedotov told reporters on Friday.
Fox News' Bret Baier, David Piper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.