|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
U.S. displays photos of arms captured in Baghdad raid
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Defense officials displayed photographs Tuesday of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and bomb-making materials that they said were captured during a bloody raid Sunday that's become a bitter point of contention between the United States and leading Iraqi officials.
The briefing by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was intended to counter angry Shiite claims that U.S.-backed Iraqi commandos massacred at least 16 innocent worshippers at a Baghdad mosque.
"Those are not religious instruments," Rumsfeld said as the images were shown on a video screen.
U.S. officials say the raid was a successful operation by Iraqi special forces that eliminated a terrorist cell that engineered kidnappings and assassinations out of a former school complex in northeastern Baghdad.
But Iraqi Shiite leaders denounced the raid.
Rumsfeld and Pace said the troops opened fire only after they were fired upon by fighters from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Al-Sadr's militia, which is accused of sectarian killings in Baghdad that mostly target Sunni Arabs, controls the complex, known as Mustafa Husseiniya. A Husseiniya is a Shiite place for prayer and other religious purposes. In Iraq it is considered virtually the same as a mosque.
With overhead satellite imagery posted on a video screen, Pace pointed out several buildings where he said the Iraqi security forces came under fire.
Pace said one building had a "small minaret and a prayer room" inside of which were found several rocket-propelled grenade launchers and bomb-making materials. Iraqi forces also freed a man who said he'd been held hostage, Pace said.
U.S. military officials in Baghdad said Monday the Iraqi forces had killed 16 hostile fighters and detained 18 people. At least two of those people had traces of explosives residue on their fingers, Rumsfeld said.
The deputy U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, on Tuesday dismissed reports that a mosque had been hit or that the 50 Iraqi Special Operations forces, backed up by 25 U.S. advisers, had chosen the wrong target.
Iraqi units "told us point blank that this was not a mosque," said Chiarelli, noting that on U.S. military maps the Mustafa Mosque was, in fact, six blocks north of their target. He said Iraqi forces "did the fighting," and there was "gunfire from every room."
"After the fact someone went in and made the scene look different than it was. There's been huge misinformation," Chiarelli said.
Casualties: A U.S. soldier died when an explosive detonated near his vehicle outside Habbaniyah, and another was killed by small-arms fire south of Baghdad. As of Tuesday at least 2,325 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.
Government: Politicians returned to talks on forming a government after a one-day boycott by Shiite leaders over Sunday's raid.
Kidnapping: Masked gunmen, many in military uniforms, stormed into a Baghdad currency exchange and two electronic stores Tuesday, kidnapping 24 Iraqis and taking currency worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Bodies found: Police discovered 17 more corpses Tuesday, all men from Baghdad who were handcuffed and shot in the head. A majority had been dumped under a bridge.
Halliburton: The company repeatedly overcharged taxpayers and provided substandard cost reports under a $1.2 billion contract to restore Iraq's southern oil fields, according to a new report by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman. Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, dismissed the report as partisan and said it focused on old issues that have been resolved.
Battle plans: Russia's defense minister said Tuesday that reports that Moscow fed U.S. battle plans to Saddam Hussein before the 2003 invasion of Iraq were "total rubbish," but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked her Russian counterpart for an investigation. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's denial followed a Pentagon report that alleged that two seized Iraqi documents indicate Moscow obtained information from sources inside the U.S. Central Command and passed it to Iraqi officials.
Abu Ghraib: The Defense Department Tuesday agreed to release 74 photos and three videos — many already published — that depict prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib and were sought by civil-rights groups. The Defense Department had appealed an order by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein to release photos provided by Sgt. Joseph Darby.
Additional information from The Christian Science Monitor, The Associated Press and Reuters
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company