Source AP ©

Iraq: U.S. soldiers detain 18 suspected militants in Baghdad area raids

U.S. soldiers backed by attack aircraft detained 18 suspected militants and confiscated weapons and equipment in three raids targeting bomb networks around northwestern Baghdad, the military said Friday.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been hit hard by roadside bombs and other attacks as they step up their presence on the streets of the capital and surrounding areas in a series of offensives following the completion of an American troop buildup. The military on Thursday announced the deaths of 14 soldiers - most in powerful explosions that struck their vehicles in the capital.

Soldiers from Battery C, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery detained four people after an air assault raid on a residence that had been identified by intelligence sources as an insurgent safe house near the town of Shammar Jarba, according to a statement.

The military said the four suspects were believed responsible for roadside bomb attacks on a major highway and elsewhere in the area near Taji, the site of a U.S. air base 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad.

Troops from Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, stormed a suspected insurgent safe house near the village of Awad, seizing weapons and detaining five people, including one believed to be responsible for coordinating car bomb attacks against U.S.-led forces west of Taji, the military said.

Nine other suspects were detained for questioning by soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, during a foot patrol west of the village of Kem, it added.

"The surge has allowed us to keep an increased presence in the rural area of northwest Baghdad, so we can provide improved security for the people in this region," deputy commander Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak said in the statement, referring to the some 30,000 extra U.S. troops ordered to Iraq as part of the security crackdown.