BAGHDAD (AFP) — US and Iraqi troops killed 14 suspected Al-Qaeda fighters in northern and eastern Iraq on Saturday, a day after Osama bin Laden's group claimed the killing of a prominent Sunni tribal leader.
The US military said in a statement that separate operations in Tamim and Diyala provinces had targeted "senior leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and their facilitation networks."
Seventeen suspected members of Al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate were detained during these two operations as well as in a series of raids in other parts of the country, the military said.
During an operation near the northern oil refining town of Baiji on Saturday, it said, "several enemy elements moved into tactical position."
Iraqi and US forces called for close air support "which engaged and killed nine terrorists," the statement said, adding that one suspected militant was arrested.
Four suspected Al-Qaeda operatives were killed when they lobbed grenades and opened fire on coalition forces during a separate raid north of Muqdadiyah in restive Diyala province, the military said.
"Responding in self-defence, coalition forces returned fire and killed them," it said, adding that two suspected militants were arrested in the operation.
Another raid in the main northern city of Mosul left one militant killed, while a similar operation around Baghdad netted another 14 suspected Al-Qaeda members.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq said in an Internet statement on Friday that it killed Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, a key US ally who was killed in a bomb attack in western Anbar province on Thursday.
It called Abu Reesha "one of the dogs and standard bearers of the crusade of (US President George W.) Bush."
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