Violence continued in Iraq Monday, after a particularly deadly weekend for U.S. troops, and the killing of a key insurgent leader. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Reports from Iraq indicate that attackers killed seven civilians, including a child, near the town of Baquba, north of Baghdad. In other incidents, a roadside bomb killed three Iraqi soldiers in the western part of the capital and a mortar shell hit the parliament building, but no one was injured.
Meanwhile, coalition forces say troops freed five Iraqis held captive and tortured in the town of Karmah, and captured more than two dozen insurgents elsewhere, including three men it believes were terrorist cell leaders.
The White House reports President Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to mark the end of his first year in office and urge him to move forward with political reconciliation, which U.S. officials say is as important as security operations in the effort to bring stability to Iraq.
Those developments followed a weekend in which 15 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, a particularly high death toll that Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says is the result of increased coalition operations as part of the troop surge and the new security plan.
"Coalition forces are aggressively taking the fight to the insurgents that are out there to bring stability and security throughout areas of Iraq," said Bryan Whitman. "The very nature of our offensive operations puts us out there where the insurgents are."
The U.S. command in Iraq is also reporting the killing of a key insurgent leader. Whitman says Azhar al-Dulaymi was responsible for a dramatic attack on U.S. forces in January near the town of Karbala, south of Baghdad.
"He was the terrorist tactical commander of the Karbala attack, not only on the scene, but he was believed to be the ring leader for the January 20 attack on Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center, the incident in which one soldier was killed and four other U.S. soldiers were kidnapped and murdered," he said.
Whitman says coalition forces attacked a house in Baghdad on Saturday where al-Dulaymi was hiding. He fled to the roof and U.S. troops chased him from rooftop to rooftop before he surrendered. But Whitman says he was killed when he attacked a soldier who was arresting him.
"When coalition soldiers attempted to detain him, he pushed the soldier and grabbed for the soldier's weapon," said Whitman. "The soldier shot him with a pistol and an over-watching soldier fired at him with a rifle."
Whitman says al-Dulaymi received military training in Iran, and was involved in smuggling weapons from Iran into Iraq, including material used to make high-powered roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Penetrators.
Also on Monday, the Pentagon released the first audio from hearings held in recent months for 14 newly arrived detainees at the Guantanamo detention center.
TRIBUNAL RECORDER: "All rise."
TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT: "This hearing shall come to order. Please be seated."
This hearing, for Abu Faraj al Libi, was held on March 9. The U.S. military calls al-Libi "a senior al-Qaida facilitator," and says he helped recruit and train al-Qaida fighters, and took care of their families in Pakistan. At the hearing, the presiding military officer noted that al-Libi declined to participate in the process of determining officially whether he is an 'enemy combatant.'
TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT: "Personal Representative, you have advised the tribunal that the detainee elected not to participate in this tribunal proceeding. Is that still the situation?"
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE: "Yes sir."
TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT: "Please explain."
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE: "Sir, Faraj al-Libi has decided that his freedom is far too important to be decided by an administrative process."
Al-Libi and the 13 other men transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret U.S. prisons elsewhere, have had their initial hearings. The results of the reviews are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.