Allawi Warns Neighbors

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) made an unusually strong warning to Iraq's neighbors to crack down on insurgents infiltrating from their territory, saying that Iraq's patience was wearing thin. Al Qaeda (search), meanwhile, claimed responsibility for a bold attack on U.S. troops.

Iraqi officials have repeatedly accused Syria and Iran of supporting the insurgents waging a campaign of violence against American forces and Allawi's U.S.-backed government. Both countries have denied helping militants or allowing them to cross their borders into Iraq.

But Allawi's comments Friday to Baghdad's Al-Iraqiya television were among his toughest yet. "Some countries are hosting people who are involved in harming the Iraqi people," he said, without naming any nations. "Harming Iraq and its people is not allowed."

He said his government had contacted the countries and was waiting for their reply. "According to the answers we will decide what the next step will be," he said.

"Iraq is not a weak country. Iraq is passing through a difficult period but Iraq can respond in a strong way if needed," he said. "Patience has limits and it is beginning to run out."

Meanwhile, the U.S. first Infantry Division detained 49 suspected guerrillas during a midnight raid in the town of Duluiyah, 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Baghdad, it said Friday. The sweep appeared to be the latest in a series of anti-insurgency campaigns in the so-called Sunni Triangle in central Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by the country's most wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), claimed responsibility for a well-coordinated attack Wednesday on a U.S. post in the northern city of Mosul. The U.S. military said one American soldier and 25 insurgents were killed in the battle.

The militants, however, claimed they had suffered no casualties.

"We, Al Qaeda in Iraq, claim responsibility for the battles of Mosul, may God cleanse it from the impurities of the infidels," said a statement posted on a Web site that often carries militant claims.

Wednesday's attack began with a massive truck bomb exploding just outside a U.S. checkpoint, followed by attacks by squads of 10-12 insurgents.

A Stryker vehicle reinforcing the Americans was hit by a roadside bomb and a second car bomb. U.S. forces then called in airstrikes by F-18 and F-16 fighter jets, which launched three Maverick missiles and conducted several strafing runs.

In new violence, a car bomb exploded next to a taxi carrying Iraqi national guardsmen in the town of Beiji, 155 miles (249 kilometers) north of Baghdad. A passenger car, which happened to be passing by at that moment, absorbed the brunt of the blast, killing its two occupants while five guardsmen were wounded, said Maj. Neil O'Brien.

In Samarra, 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Baghdad, U.S. troops came under mortar attack Friday. They opened fire, killing an Iraqi and wounding two, local hospital sources said.

North of Fallujah, a body of an Iraqi national guardsman was found with a handwritten note pinned to it saying: "This is the fate of anyone who collaborates with the occupation forces."

Allawi, who earlier this month accused Syria of harboring officials from the ousted Saddam Hussein's regime, described a spate of guerrilla attacks in December that have killed hundreds of people — mainly members of the security forces — as "a catastrophe." Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan accused Iran and Syria of supporting "terrorism in Iraq."

Insurgents have intensified their strikes in a campaign to disrupt the Jan. 30 general elections for a constitutional assembly that will set up the next government and write a new constitution. Rebels have targeted members of the interim government's security forces, perceived ascollaborators with American occupiers.

During Friday's prayers in a Baghdad mosque, Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour Al-Samarie of the Association of Muslim Scholars — an influential Sunni group — demanded that the U.S. troops pull out of Iraq.

"We have to realize that God is mightier than America and more powerful than the occupation forces," he said.

"America, which conducted crimes everywhere and supported Israel against Muslims, should take the lesson of the torrent and surge of the ocean in Asia," Al-Samarie said, adding that the United States could be destroyed in a similar manner.