Google news - SAMARRA, Iraq (AFP) — US and Iraqi forces swept into a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least seven fighters in a gun battle, Iraqi officials said.
The fighting erupted in a densely wooded area where Al-Qaeda had been regrouping, according to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Khalaf, the police chief in the nearby town of Dhuluiyah.
"Seven members of Al-Qaeda were killed in the fighting, including a suicide bomber who blew himself up during the clashes, and another nine were arrested including a prominent terrorist called Uthman Tariq Ismail," he said.
He said some of those killed were from other Arab countries, without naming them, and that the bodies had been sent to the main hospital in the northern city of Tikrit for identification.
US and Iraqi forces have allied with local tribes and former insurgents over the past two years to drive Al-Qaeda out of most of its former strongholds.
But attacks against security forces and civilians bearing the hallmarks of the terror group are still common in some parts of the country, including the capital.
At least 150 people were killed in attacks in Iraq over the past week, including 65 people who died in a twin suicide bombing on Friday outside Baghdad's most holy Shiite shrine.
Mullah Nadhem al-Juburi, the head of a US-allied Sunni militia in Dhuluiyah targeted by a suicide bomber who struck a mosque last week, said security forces had not previously operated in the area of Sunday's assault.
"This whole area had been taken over by the Sahwa, but Al-Qaeda had recently started reorganising there," he said, referring to the Sahwa "Awakening" movement of tribes and former insurgents who have turned on Al-Qaeda.
He said the operation followed US aerial bombing and the dropping of paratroopers over the area.
Under a security pact signed with Washington in November, US troops are to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and major towns by June 30 and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011.