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Suspected al Qaeda Leader, Others Captured; Weapons Cache Found

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2007 – Coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists, including a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq emir, in raids throughout Iraq today; Iraqi forces found a large weapons cache Feb. 24; and Iraqi and coalition forces announced the casualty toll from yesterday’s car-bomb attack in Habbaniyah, military officials reported.

During an operation in Baghdad, coalition forces captured a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq emir and one of his associates.

Three suspected foreign terrorist facilitators were captured in operations northeast of Samarra, and eight more were captured in a foreign fighter safe house west of Mahmudiyah.

In downtown Ramadi, coalition forces captured two suspects in a foreign fighter safe house. Intelligence reports indicated members of the cell were planning suicide operations against coalition or Iraqi forces.

"Coalition forces are making progress dismantling the foreign fighter and al Qaeda terrorist networks inside Iraq," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "These operations send a message to terrorists that they will be caught and prosecuted for their crimes under the Iraqi justice system."

Separately, Iraqi police and coalition military officials placed the number of those killed in yesterday's suicide truck bomb attack in Habbaniyah at about 31 Iraqis killed and 75 wounded. The attack occurred at about 4 p.m. in a busy intersection as citizens were exiting a mosque after evening prayer. The blast affected a nearby school and an Iraqi police station.

The target of this latest al Qaeda in Iraq-led attack is not known, officials said. Iraqi police established triage for the victims of the attack, and coalition medical personnel assisted in the treatment and evacuation of the wounded civilians.

In Baqubah, information provided by a concerned citizen led Iraqi police officers from Judidah and coalition forces from the 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to a large improvised explosive device cache Feb. 24.

The cache consisted of two explosively formed projectiles, a completed improvised mine, more than two dozen mortar rounds and 15 rockets, six rocket launchers, five anti-aircraft rounds, more than two dozen RPG warheads, more than 400 plastic and steel containers in various stages of fabrication for IED construction, and large quantities of IED-making material.

"The vigilance of the Iraqi police and the willingness of the people of Diyala to end the cycle of violence led to this discovery," said Col. David W. Sutherland, 3-1 Cav. commander and senior U.S. Army officer in the Diyala province.

A coalition forces explosive ordnance disposal unit safely disposed of some of the munitions with the majority of the cache being transferred to Forward Operating Base Warhorse.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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