First Published: 2007-01-29

 
Fierce battle near Iraqi holy city leaves 300 militants dead
 

Joint US-Iraqi operation in pursuit of militant leader, White House resists opposition to Iraq plan.

 

Middle East Online

Now the search is for Ahmed Ibnal Hassan

NAJAF, Iraq - A fierce day-long battle near the Shiite holy city of Najaf left at least 300 militants dead as they fought Iraqi and US forces, an Iraqi official said Monday.

"At least 300 militants have been killed and another 13 arrested," said Ahmed Duaible, spokesman for the Najaf governorate.

The battle which broke out early Sunday had now calmed, he said and the mopping-up operation included a search for the militants' leader.

"We do not know the fate of Ahmed Ibnal Hassan who led the gunmen," Duaible said, adding that a group of militants had managed to escape and he could be one of them.

The spokesman said Hassan was leading the group called "Soldiers of Heaven" which had clashed with security forces at a police checkpoint.

The initial clash turned into a pitched battle which lasted the entire day in Zarqa, north of Najaf.

US aircraft supported the Iraqi soldiers, bombing positions where the militants were firing from.

However, one US helicopter crashed in the area, killing two crewmen on board, the military said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Dubaile said a large cache of heavy and medium weapons were found and were being destroyed.

He said three policemen had been killed and 30 wounded in the firefight.



White House resists opposition to Iraq plan



The White House is sticking to its plan to send extra US troops to Iraq, resisting public disapproval and opposition Democrats determined to pass a damning resolution against the strategy.

Vice President Dick Cheney said the plan, which includes sending 21,500 more soldiers to the war-torn country, should be given time to work.

"People are trying to make a judgment on whether or not this plan is going to work I think far too early," he said in an interview with Newsweek released Sunday. "And I think in fairness to the Iraqis, they need to be given an opportunity to follow through on their commitments."

He cautioned against the phased withdrawal backed by Democrats, saying Iraq would collapse into chaos and the United States would lose stature in the world.

"All of a sudden, the United States, which is the bulwark of security in that part of world, would I think no longer -- could no longer be counted on by our friends and allies that have put so much into this struggle," he said.

Congress is due to vote in early February on a non-binding motion criticizing the surge in troops, with Democrats and Republicans moving to prepare other draft resolutions even as the violence in Iraq claimed more lives with at least 61 killed across the country on Sunday.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer predicted a large number of lawmakers in Bush's Republican Party -- possibly "even a majority" -- would support the resolution condemning the proposed deployment.

"And that will send shockwaves through the White House and through the country," Schumer told NBC.

Congress also appeared headed for a possible confrontation with Bush over requests for additional funds for the war, with lawmakers vowing to pile pressure on the president.

Bush has urged a skeptical US public to give his new strategy a chance and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CBS that Senate Republicans were "not going to talk about failure" in Iraq.

"We're going to talk about success," he said. "But we don't want to allow these places, to become once again where these elements like Al-Qaeda can operate with impunity and then be prepared to launch attacks on us again here in America."

But the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, presidential hopeful Joe Biden, challenged the administration's doomsday predictions.

"It's not the American people or the United States Congress who are emboldening the enemy," he told Fox News.

"It's the failed policy of this president, going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely, going to war without enough troops, going to war without enough equipment and lastly, now sending 17,500 people in the middle of a city of 6.5 million people with bullseyes on their back with no plan," he added.

Biden vowed a "full-throated debate" on the plan in the Senate despite administration promises to move ahead in face of the opposition.

The president faces an uphill battle to gain support for his plan, with even loyal Republicans like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana calling it "clearly the final shot."

"I think we should be stronger and clearer about benchmarks," the senator said on NBC, adding his support for a regional conference that includes Iran and Syria.

"We need to go over and over and over the issue of, is this new troop level enough to make a difference. Because I think, clearly, we have been wrong in the past about the adequacy of troop levels," he said.

Democrat-leaning independent Senator Joe Lieberman said Sunday he was working with Republican Senator John McCain on a text to try to bridge the divisions.

On the campaign trail in Iowa, presidential hopeful and Senator Hillary Clinton said it would be irresponsible for Bush to leave US troops in Iraq when his term ends in two years.

"The president has said that this is going to be left to his successor," the Democrat told a crowd in an auditorium. "I think it's the height of irresponsibility and I resent it."

On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters -- including Vietnam War opponent US actress Jane Fonda -- took to the streets of Washington to denounce the president's plan and demand an end to the war.

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe