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Soldiers Capture No. 54; Bomb Kills 5, Wounds 29

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2004 – A combined operation by members of the 82nd Airborne Division and special operations forces resulted in the capture of number 54 of Iraq's 55 most-wanted fugitives Jan. 11 near Ramadi, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, announced during a briefing from Baghdad today.

Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, former Baath Party regional chairman for the Karbala governate, is in coalition custody, the general said. Due to circumstances of the capture, Kimmitt said, he could not provide any further details.

This capture, he said, is "another significant step in reducing anti-coalition resistance. He was an enabler for many of the resistance attacks on Iraqis, as well as (against) U.S. and coalition forces. These attacks were crimes against the Iraqi people."

The general said terrorists and former regime elements that support and condone violence have "no place in a free and democratic Iraq. Iraq will inevitability be rid of these subversive elements," he added. And he issued a warning. "If you are a terrorist, a former regime element resistance fighter or jihadist, know that your day of reckoning is near if you fail to abandon the cause." Kimmitt said the coalition is "committed to pursuing the remaining fugitives on the list until all are brought to justice."

A car bomb detonated near an Iraqi police station in Baqubah this morning, killing five people and wounding 29 others, said Kimmitt. Two Iraqi police officers, one Iraqi Civil Defense Corps member and two civilians were listed among the dead, he added.

An initial investigation indicated that an improvised explosive device, consisting of an artillery round and grenades, was placed in a small automobile and parked near the station. Two additional IEDs found near the scene were disarmed, said Kimmitt.

A soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died in a non-hostile incident in Mosul Jan. 13, according to U.S. Central Command officials. The incident is under investigation, and the soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.

The past week has seen an average of 17 engagements against coalition military daily, said Kimmitt. In the last 24 hours, U.S. and coalition forces conducted 1,741 patrols, 16 offensive operations and 20 raids, and captured 123 anti- coalition suspects, he added.

In the northern zone, the coalition celebrated the reopening of two schools in Qara Qosh, north of Mosul. The general said the event was well received and attended by coalition members, residents and town officials.

The turnaround of mid- and high-level Baath members in the north is continuing to build momentum, noted Kimmitt.

More than 50 former Baath Party leaders in northern Iraq denounced the party of Saddam Hussein Jan. 13 and exhorted the people of the region to work with the coalition to build a free and unified Iraq, according to a CENTCOM news release. They met in the city hall of Ash Shurah, a small town 35 kilometers south of Mosul, to discuss their role in the future of Iraq. During the meeting, leaders of the party publicly denounced terrorism and violence, and voiced the need for all Iraqis to work together for the future of the new Iraq.

In a related event in the nearby town of Hadr, about 25 former Baathists -- including several third-tier Shuabah leaders -- also denounced violence and pledged to work with the coalition, according to a CENTCOM news release.

The 101st facilitated the events to support reconciliation by former regime elements to ensure the democratic process includes all Iraqis who are willing to support a free, safe and democratic environment, the CENTCOM release stated.

The events, noted CENTCOM officials, signify a shift among the top regional leaders of the Nineveh province toward supporting the reconstruction of northern Iraq and increased cooperation with coalition efforts.

As part of an overall democracy-building initiative, the coalition is working hand-in-hand with the governing council and local political parties, said Dan Senor, coalition spokesman, during the briefing today. About 250 people participated in a town hall meeting in Mosul Jan. 12, and another such meeting is planned for Baghdad Jan. 28.

"We've devoted a significant amount of funding (an estimated $458 million) to democracy-building programs," said Senor. "It's the largest amount of funding dedicated to the early stages of a country's democratic development since the end of the Cold War. We're implementing a robust plan for democracy building programs (and) coordinating use of supplemental funds with (the U.S. Agency for International Development), Department of State and National Endowment for Democracy."

Senor said training on the basics of democracy is being conducted throughout the country. Topics include accountability of government employees, transparency of government actions and processes, and participation of citizens in the government process.

Senor said more than 600 democracy-building meetings that included citizens and political representatives were held in December.

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Related Sites:
82nd Airborne Division
Status of Iraq's 55 Most Wanted Fugitives
Combined Joint Task Force 7
U.S. Central Command
U.S. Agency for International Development
U.S. State Department
National Endowment for Democracy

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