U.S. jets bomb two insurgent "safe houses" near Syrian border

U.S. jets bombed two insurgent "safe houses" near the Syrian border Monday in an attack aimed at al-Qaida in Iraq, and coalition forces swept through several areas of Baghdad, taking nearly 100 suspected militants into custody, the U.S. command said.

Two mortar rounds also exploded at an intersection in central Baghdad on Monday, killing one civilian and wounding four others, police said.

The mortars were the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni-led militants. On Sunday, gunmen killed Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, the brother of Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and a top trade ministry official escaped assassination in another part of the capital.

The U.S. command also announced Sunday that a Marine died of injuries suffered the day before in a roadside bombing west of the capital. At least 2,016 U.S. military members have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. U.S. Marines supported by warplanes and helicopters having been raiding targets in towns and villages near Iraq's desolate border with Syria in an effort to disrupt Iraqi and foreign insurgents. Early Monday, U.S. jets attacked a "safe house" apparently being used by a senior al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader in Obeidi, a border town 300 kilometers (185 miles) west of Baghdad, the military said. The jets also used precision-guided munitions to attack a second house suspected of being a base for attacks against American and Iraqi forces, the U.S. command said.

The statement mentioned no casualties and did not identify the al-Qaida in Iraq leader by name. Towns in the lawless area often lack their own police forces, and insurgents reportedly have threatened to kill civilians accused of collaborating with U.S. or Iraqi soldiers. Some U.S. air strikes in the area have resulted in civilian casualties, but locals, including doctors, often appear to exaggerate death tolls under pressure from militants.

On Friday and Saturday, U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted several raids in Baghdad, detaining 98 suspected insurgents and finding large weapons caches, the U.S. command said Sunday.

One cache, found hidden in one building in a second-story crawl space beneath a bathtub, included 13 AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, 20 AK-47 barrels, a pistol, U.S. currency and an ammunition stockpile, the military said.

At about 9 a.m. on Sunday, two mortar rounds hit the Hamah intersection in central Baghdad, killing a civilian, wounding four, and damaging several vehicles, said police Mohammed Abdul Ghani. Recently insurgents, who often use roadside bombs and suicide bombers in their attacks, appear to have been firing more mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in their strikes.

Gunmen seriously wounded police Maj. Hazim Shebib and his driver in an attack at 7:30 a.m. Sunday in Dora, one of Baghdad's most violent areas, said police Capt. Talib Thamir, reports the AP. I.L.