Local al-Qaida in Iraq leader killed

Iraqi forces killed a local al-Qaida in Iraq leader and two other insurgents in a raid north of Baghdad on Friday, and roadside bombs killed an American soldier and an Iraqi policeman, officials said.

The death toll in two days of fighting around Baqouba climbed to at least 56 including seven Iraqi soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Awad said.

Provincial police chief Maj. Ghassan al-Bawi said troops and police were on the streets of Baqouba, 55 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and roads to the city were closed because of fears the insurgents might regroup and launch more attacks.

Iraqi commando forces acting on a tip raided a house where Hamid al-Takhi and the two other insurgents were hiding in Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, said police Capt. Laith Mohammed. All three were killed in a gunbattle.

Mohammed said al-Takhi had been responsible for many insurgent attacks against coalition forces and civilians in the area.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, the country's most feared insurgent group, appeared in a video earlier this week trying to rally Sunni Arabs to fight Iraq's new government and denouncing Sunnis who cooperate with it as "agents" of the Americans.

Also Friday, two mortars or rockets were fired at downtown Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, where Iraq's government meets and the U.S. Embassy is located. One landed inside the zone but failed to detonate, while the other exploded nearby on the other side of the Tigris River, the U.S. military said. No casualties were immediately reported.

The American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb that hit a military vehicle north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday, reports the AP.

I.L.