Amerikanerne befridde 42 irakere som ble holdt fanget hos Al Qaida i Diyala-provinsen. Den yngste var 14 år. Flere var blitt torturert. Amerikanerne ser tegn til at befolkningen vender seg om Al Qaida.

American forces freed 42 kidnapped Iraqis — some of whom had been hung from ceilings and tortured for months — in a raid Sunday on an al-Qaida hideout north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Military officials said the operation, launched on tips from residents, showed that Iraqis in the turbulent Diyala province were turning against Sunni insurgents and beginning to trust U.S. troops.

«The people in Diyala are speaking up against al-Qaida,» said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in
As part of the crackdown, the military sent 3,000 more U.S. troops to Diyala, a turbulent province north of Baghdad that has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. Sunday’s raid, the military said, was a sign that the increase was working.

«The more contact we have (with) the Iraqi citizens, the more confidence that they develop in us, and in the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army. That leads to greater cooperation from the Iraqi citizenry,» said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman.

Some of the men suffered broken bones. Some had been captive for as long as four months. One said he was just 14 years old, Caldwell said.

The 42 freed Iraqis marked the largest number of captives ever found in a single al-Qaida prison, he said.

Men i Kut, sørøst for Bagdad, var nyhetene mindre oppløftende. 70 irakiske politi fra spesialstyrkene innleverte sine våpen og trakk seg, i frykt for Mahdi-militsen. De fryktet hevn fra Madhi-militsen. Flere har allerede fått føle det.

Earlier this week, Mahdi Army militants captured at least seven members of the police’s rapid deployment force during a gunbattle, police said. The militants badly beat the police and warned them to stop their offensive against the militia or they would kill them, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation.

Some officers had their houses firebombed, their children kidnapped and their relatives killed, he said.

«I fear reprisals, I want to keep my family and relatives safe,» he said.

Another officer who resigned said the Mahdi Army threw a grenade at a colleague’s house, killing his mother and wounding his brother.

«We don’t have sufficient weapons, just a rifle,» he said, refusing to give his name as well.

Mahdi-militsen er blitt mer aggressiv nå som Moqtadah al-Sadr er tilbake i offentligheten. Hvis amerikanerne kan vise til fremgang i sunni-triangelet kan det forsvare tapene av soldater. Men Mahdi og al-Sadr er en tøff nøtt å knekke. Iran står bak. Mandag skal USA og Iran møtes for første gang for å drøfte situasjonen i Irak.

U.S. frees 42 Iraqi captives in raid