U.S.-Iraqi Raid Nabs Suspect in U.S. Soldier Abduction

An Iraqi man suspected of having information on the American soldier who was kidnapped last month was taken into U.S. and Iraqi forces' custody Tuesday, as Iraq and Syria renewed diplomatic ties after a 24-year impasse.

Seven members of a militia were detained after U.S. and Iraqi forces raided Baghdad's Sadr City, a Shiite strong old. Three Iraqis, including a young boy, were killed and 15 wounded in the raid, according to Police Capt. Mohammed Ismail.

Iraq and Syria, which severed diplomatic relations 24 years ago, officially restored them in a development that could stem some of Iraq's unrelenting violence. In central Baghdad, some Iraqis were cheered by the newly restored relations.

"Maybe improved ties between Iraq and Syria, and some of our other Arab neighbors, will help us one day get rid of the U.S. forces," said Ghalib Akzar. (Full story)

The U.S. command said Iraqi forces were attacked with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades during the raid, and that U.S. aircraft returned the fire of enemy forces on the ground. It said no coalition casualties were reported, and "civilian and enemy casualties could not be determined."

The U.S. command said the raid "detained an illegal armed group kidnapping and murder cell leader ... reported to have firsthand knowledge of the control and movement" of Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who was visiting his Iraqi wife in Baghdad on Oct. 23 when gunmen handcuffed him and took him away.

Iraqi Police Capt. Mohammed Ismail said a young boy and two other people were killed in the early morning raid and 15 people were wounded. Several houses were damaged. The U.S. military reported no coalition casualties, but said other deaths or injuries could not be determined.

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By midday Tuesday, three Iraqis were killed and 24 wounded in other attacks involving crossfire between police and gunmen, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings and car bombs in the cities of Baghdad and Mosul.

U.S. troops blew up two cars inside the heavily fortified Green Zone after sniffer dogs indicated explosives were inside the vehicles that were used in the motorcade of the parliament speaker, an adviser to parliament said. (Full story)

In what could signal a major security breach, the explosives were found and detonated near the Convention Center, where parliament meets and government officials hold news conferences, Wissam al-Zubeidi said.

Tuesday's raid in Sadr City was the third in four days by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the slum, which is the headquarters of the Madhi Army, the Shiite militia suspected of having carried out the mass kidnapping at a Ministry of Higher Education office in Baghdad on Nov. 14.

Dozens of suspected Shiite militia gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped scores of people during the raid at the ministry, which is predominantly Sunni Arab.

That attack was as another example of widespread revenge killings and kidnappings that are taking place between Iraq's majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, leaving Iraq on the brink of a sectarian civil war.

The Madhi Army is al-Sadr's heavily armed militia, which claims Sadr City as its headquarters.

A rogue cell from the Mahdi Army militia also is suspected of having captured al-Taayie.

Elsewhere in Baghdad on Tuesday, a taxi left Yarmouk Hospital's morgue in western Baghdad with a wooden casket carrying Iraq's famous Shiite comedian Walid Hassan to a funeral in Najaf, the holy Shiite city south of Baghdad.

Grieving relatives and colleagues gathered near the casket as it was tied to the roof of the taxi, including several crying women wearing head-to-toe black gowns.

Haasan, 47, a star of "Caricature," a popular Iraqi show on Al-Sharqiyah TV known for its dark humor about the country's many problems, was shot to death while driving through Baghdad on Monday. He was the father of five children.

His weekend television show poked fun at issues such as Iraq's poor security, long gas lines, electricity blackouts and ineffective politicians — desperately needed comic relief to many Iraqi fans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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