Source AP ©

Insurgents detained by U.S.-led forces in Iraq

Nine suspected insurgents were detained by U.S.-led forces in raids aimed to Al-Qaida in Iraq, with five of them in a region recently known for the rise of violence as militants fled there to escape a security crackdown in Baghdad, the military said.

In southern Iraq, the Basra provincial council is expected to hold a no-confidence vote against the Shiite governor of the oil-rich region amid demonstrations by political groups calling for his resignation and accusing him of corruption, officials said Friday.

The announcements came one day after violence across Iraq, including a suicide car bomb attack on Iraqi forces, killed at least 72 people, including the bullet-riddled bodies of 27 men dumped in Baghdad, apparent victims of sectarian death squads.

Still, Maj. Gen. William C. Caldwell, the top American military spokesman, insisted the U.S. command felt "very comfortable" that it is making "steady progress" in restoring order in Baghdad. "We are seeing those initial signs of progress being made," he told AP Radio on Thursday.

The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, adopted House-passed legislation calling for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1, but U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to veto the measure and neither body passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Oct. 1 was too soon for a withdrawal to start and criticized the Senate vote, adding it "sends wrong signals" to armed militants.

The U.S. military said the nine suspected insurgents it captured Friday during raids against al-Qaida in Iraq included one who was leading a kidnapping operation in Salman Pak, a town just southeast of Baghdad where Sunni and Shiite extremists have frequently clashed.

Five others were detained in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of the capital, who allegedly made car bombs and attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces, the statement said.

But killings continued Friday in the hard-hit city, where many militants are believed to have fled from the Baghdad area to avoid a crackdown by U.S. and Iraqi forces that was launched in February. A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed its target but killed a civilian in Mosul, police Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim al Jubouri.

An al-Qaida-linked group also claimed responsibility in an Internet statement Friday for a suicide bombing the day before that targeted a headquarters of a Kurdish political party in northern Iraq, killing three security guards and wounding five, saying it sent "lions of the Islamic state of Iraq" for the attack.

Police said two suicide bombers attacked an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The blasts killed three security guards and wounded five, police said. Casualties could have been worse if guards had not opened fire on the two attackers, forcing them to detonate their explosives at least 50 yards from the office, police said.

The bombing in Zumar, a town 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Mosul, capital of Ninevah province, was the second suicide attack this week aimed at the party in that area.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, said the attack was part of a range of operations meant as revenge for the rape of a Sunni Arab woman at the hands of Shiite-led security forces in Iraq, according to the statement, which was posted on a Web site frequently used by militants. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

Another suspected insurgent was detained in Baghdad and three near Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad. They allegedly were involved with making roadside bombs, a weapon used frequently against U.S. and Iraqi convoys.

In Basra, the vote on the performance of Gov. Mohammed al-Waili had been planned for Thursday but there was no quorum and it was postponed the request of his Fadhila party, the officials said. But it now could be held as soon as Saturday, they said.

The political tension in the predominantly Shiite province that includes Basra has been a major topic recently in the national parliament, underlying the fierce rivalry between Shiite groups vying for influence as Britain prepares to reduce its forces in the region.

In another development Friday, the U.S. military also said an Iraqi detainee at Camp Bucca, a U.S. Army prison in Iraq, died the day before from injuries apparently sustained during an assault by other prisoners. The case was being investigated.

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