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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Zarqawi death sparks US crackdown
Iraqi soldiers arrest suspects
Iraqi forces, backed by US troops, have held scores of suspects
The US says coalition forces in Iraq have carried out more than 450 raids since the death last week of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The US said 104 insurgents were killed and 759 "anti-Iraqi elements" captured.

Iraq says documents seized after the killing of Zarqawi yielded vital leads and that this may be the "beginning of the end" of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

An Iraqi insurgent group has meanwhile kidnapped a Turkish technician, Arabic TV network al-Jazeera reports.

A video from a group calling itself the Imam Ali Brigades was aired on the network and showed a middle-aged man with a gun aimed at his head.

The group demanded Turkey withdraw its envoy from Iraq and push the US and Iraqi governments to free Iraqi prisoners within the next week.

Earlier the US said it had identified the new al-Qaeda head in Iraq as Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

He had previously been named on an al-Qaeda website as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, but the US believes it is the same man and has released a picture of him.

The Pentagon also announced that the killing of a marine had brought the death toll of US forces in Iraq to 2,500.

'Upper hand'

A US military spokesman in Baghdad, Major General William Caldwell, said raids following Zarqawi's killing in an air strike near Baquba, north of Baghdad, had taken place across Iraq.

In addition to Iraqi insurgents killed or captured, Gen Caldwell said 28 significant arms caches had been found by US and Iraqi forces.

Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie
The government is on the attack now
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie
Iraq's national security adviser

"Removing the personal threat of Zarqawi disrupted other al-Qaeda network, forcing the terrorists to reshuffle their leadership, dislodging them from their quarters," Gen Caldwell said.

He said Iraqi security forces could now start "to establish the foundation for unity, security and prosperity for the people of Iraq".

According to the BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad, the announcement appears to be part of the offensive, aimed at warning al-Qaeda supporters that the US is closing in on them.

But, he says, the authorities are still braced for an upsurge in attacks, with thousands of Iraqi troops again posted across Baghdad.

Forces deployed

Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, said the killing of Zarqawi marked the "beginning of the end" of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He said documents seized after the raid that killed Zarqawi had given coalition forces "the upper hand".

Mr Rubaie said a pocket hard-drive, a laptop and documents were found in the debris after the strike.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike near Baquba

The documents and records revealed the names and whereabouts of other al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders, he said, and that the subsequent raids had yielded more information.

"The government is on the attack now," Mr Rubaie said.

One of the documents showed that Zarqawi was planning to try to start a war between the US and Iran by carrying out attacks - falsely attributed to Iran - on US interests, the prime minister's office said.

However, Gen Caldwell indicated information leading to the latest anti-insurgency raids had "come off some kind of computer asset that was at a safe location" prior to the Zarqawi strike.

In the tough new security measures in Baghdad, imposed amid fears al-Qaeda might seek to avenge Zarqawi's killing, tens of thousands of Iraqi and US security forces have been deployed.

Citizens have been stopped and frisked at checkpoints as police enforce a ban on weapons, causing long delays on the roads.

In other developments in Iraq:

  • Gunmen kill 10 people in an ambush in Baquba - the victims are apparently dragged from a bus taking them to work and shot dead at the roadside

  • Four worshippers are shot dead and 15 hurt as gunmen storm a Sunni mosque in the city of Tikrit

  • Several hundred prisoners are released as part of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's national reconciliation plan, under which 2,500 will be freed in all

  • A senior official in the Iraqi province of Karbala is arrested in a joint US-Iraqi operation - local police allege links with "terrorism"

In Washington on Thursday, the US Congress approved $65.8bn for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the US has now spent or allocated $438bn on its "war on terror", with more than 70% spent in Iraq.

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