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Zarqawi Intel Leads to 452 Raids Across Iraq

Coalition forces have carried out 452 raids across Iraq using information gained from the attack that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Meanwhile Iraqi officials said a blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in Zarqawi's hideout following his death.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said the raids led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.

He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements."

There was more violence in Baghdad on Thursday, the second day a 70,000-strong security force was depolyed in the capital.

A parked car bomb struck a neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad, killing at least three civilians and wounding 14, police said.

In Baqouba, near where an airstrike killed Zarqawi on June 7, gunmen shot and killed 10 Shiites after pulling them off a bus.

The 10 men — nine workers at the city's industrial area and the driver — were between the ages of 20 and 45 and were heading back to their homes, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The workers include three brothers and six other relatives. The gunmen sped away in two black Opel sedans, the officer said.

In Washington the Pentagon said American deaths since the invasion of Iraq have reached 2,500, but gave no details on the latest fatal casualty that marked the milestone.

Iraq's national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said there was no way to independently confirm the authenticity of a document that purportedly shows Al Qaeda policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein.

"We can verify that this information did come off some kind of computer asset that was at a safe location," he said. "This was prior to the al-Zarqawi safe house."

According to a translation of the document, insurgents were being weakened by operations against them and by their failure to attract recruits. To give new impetus to the insurgency, they would have to change tactics, it added.

"Generally speaking and despite the gloomy present situation, we find that the best solution in order to get out of this crisis is to involve the U.S. forces in waging a war against another country or any hostile groups," the document said. "We mean specifically attempting to escalate the tension between America and Iran, and American and the Shiite in Iraq."

The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, massive arrests and seizures of weapons, tightening the militants' financial outlets, and creating divisions within its ranks.

Al-Rubaie said the wealth of information in documents and computer records that had given the Iraqi government the upper hand in its fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Rubaie also said he believed the security situation in the country would improve enough to allow a large number of U.S. and Coalition forces to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and a majority to depart by the end of next year. "And maybe the last soldier will leave Iraq by mid-2008," he said.

CountryWatch: Iraq

Al-Rubaie said much of the information came from a laptop, flash drive and other documents found in the debris at the house outside Baqouba, and that more intelligence was uncovered in raids of other insurgent hideouts since then.

"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq," al-Rubaie said, adding that the documents showed Al Qaeda is in "pretty bad shape," politically and in terms of training, weapons and media.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, pressed forward with his initiative to crack down on violence in Baghdad. Government forces fanned out across Baghdad for a second day, setting up checkpoints and frisking motorists.

Al-Maliki has promised the crackdown would not target any ethnic or sectarian group.

Gunmen killed an engineer and kidnapped another, and a detergent factory worker was shot to death as he was headed to work elsewhere in western Baghdad, police said, but no major violence was reported in the capital.

Elsewhere, however, gunmen stormed a Sunni mosque near Tikrit, killing four people and wounding 15, including a fundamentalist Sunni cleric who has spoken out against the killing of Iraqis as part of the insurgency.

Iraqi forces carried out an early morning raid in Karbala, capturing Sheik Aqeel, a key terror network commander wanted for assassinating Iraqi citizens and orchestrating attacks against Coalition forces, according to a U.S. military statement.

The security crackdown in Baghdad includes a curfew extended by 4 1/2 hours — from 8:30 p.m. until dawn — and a weapons ban. The government did not say how long the crackdown would last and declined to give precise numbers about checkpoints and troops.

Operation Forward Together, involving 75,000 Iraqi army and police forces backed by U.S. troops, began Wednesday at a crucial time — one day after Bush visited Baghdad to reassure Iraqis of Washington's continued support and exactly a week after al-Zarqawi's death in a U.S. airstrike.

More than 450 detainees were being released Thursday as part of al-Maliki's national reconciliation efforts, according to the U.S. military.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.