Iraq: Group claims kidnapping of two US soldiers
U.S. gunship bombed targets as hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers pushed into an eastern section of one of Iraq ‘s most violent cities early Monday. "It‘s one of the first steps to moving into areas of the city that have not had a large coalition or Iraqi presence for a long time, if ever," said Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division that oversees the city.
During a similar operation on Sunday, U.S. forces erected two outposts in the southern half of the city to allow Iraqi soldiers to start patrolling an area that has rarely seen any U.S. or Iraqi forces, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces in Iraq on Monday continued their search for two missing soldiers who were taken prisoner by gunmen Friday evening. An umbrella group linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed Monday that it had kidnapped the two American soldiers. The group, called the Mujahedeen Shura Council, also claimed it had kidnapped four Russian diplomats and killed a fifth in Baghdad on June 3.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN's "Late Edition" the soldiers were indeed taken by gunmen. This came after an Iraqi farmer said Sunday he saw seven heavily armed gunmen capture two American troops during an attack on a road checkpoint south of Baghdad.
Another Iraqi said the Americans were offering $100,000 for information leading to the abductors, but the U.S. command denied that.
During the search operation, U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military killed three suspected "insurgents" and detained 34 others in fighting that wounded seven U.S. servicemen.
In another development, a parked car bomb struck an Iraqi army convoy near a busy Baghdad square Monday, killing five people, including four Iraqi soldiers, and wounding nine passers-by, Lt. Ahmed Muhammad Ali said. A policeman also shot dead in western Baghdad.