Al Qaeda fight to death in Iraq bastion: U.S.
By Alister Bull

June 22nd, 2007 (Reuters)

BAQUBA, Iraq (Reuters) - Thousands of U.S. soldiers on the offensive north of Baghdad are facing fierce resistance from hundreds of al Qaeda militants who are ready to fight to the death, an American general said on Friday.

“It is house to house, block to block, street to street, sewer to sewer,” said Brigadier-General Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding general, operations, 25th Infantry Division.

Al Qaeda militants were making their stand in and around the Iraqi city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, where the U.S. military on Tuesday launched one of its biggest operations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

U.S. officials accuse Sunni Islamist al Qaeda of using car bombings and other violence to try to tip Iraq into full-scale sectarian civil war. A suicide truck bomb blamed on al Qaeda killed 87 people outside a Shi’ite mosque in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Bednarek estimated several hundred al Qaeda militants were at Baquba and it would be a long and dangerous job for U.S. forces to flush them out.

“They will not go any further. They will fight to the death,” Bednarek told Reuters and another news agency.

“There have been houses that were used by al Qaeda as safe houses … their entire structures rigged with massive explosives.”

Baquba is the capital of Diyala province. The region has long been an al Qaeda hotbed, but attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces have soared here since a four-month-old U.S.-led security crackdown in Baghdad and operations elsewhere prompted many al Qaeda militants and other gunmen to seek sanctuary in Diyala…

Bednarek said U.S. forces were making some grisly discoveries as they scoured Baquba. He said residents led soldiers to a house in the western part of the city that appeared to have been used to hold, torment and kill hostages. Soldiers destroyed it.

“When you walk into a room and you see blood trails, you see saws, you see drills, knives, in addition to weapons, that is not normal,” Bednarek said…

Bednarek said the fight against al Qaeda in Diyala also involved local Sunnis Arabs who opposed the United States but who wanted to end al Qaeda domination of their communities.

He said this included fighters from the 1920 Revolution Brigade, a large Sunni Arab insurgent group that has fallen out with al Qaeda over its indiscriminate killing of civilians.

His forces were only providing logistical support, he said…
Wouldn't those who oppose U.S. actions in Iraq feel better if they weren't pinned over there, and were free to carry out more terrorist actions here at home?