US forces detain three in raid

US forces have conducted a raid to capture a "high value target" associated with Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an area north-west of Baghdad and detained three people.

US forces have conducted a raid to capture a "high value target" associated with Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an area north-west of Baghdad and detained three people.

Late Saturday, Marines conducted a "limited-scale" raid to catch a "high value target" and to disrupt insurgent activities in the Haqlaniyah area, about 137 miles north-west of Baghdad, said spokesman 1st Lt Lyle Gilbert.

Three people were detained and a weapons cache was confiscated, Gilbert said. He did not specify whether any of the three were the "high value target" that US forces were seeking.

Also found were heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition, he said.

Al-Zarqawi is believed to have escaped from Fallujah during the US offensive on the guerrilla stronghold that began on November 8.

Eyewitnesses in the area said US troops stormed a Sunni mosque, arresting its cleric and detaining dozens of residents in nearby homes during a sweep of Haqlaniyah. The US military has denied that a mosque was raided in the area.

Cleric Douraid Fakhry was arrested after US forces were seen raiding the al-Mustafa mosque, according to eyewitnesses. Houses surrounding the mosque were searched and a number of its residents were arrested.

The raid on the mosque comes as part of the government campaign against some hard-line Sunni clerics whom the government accuse of fuelling insurgency in Iraq and of using their mosques as stores for weapon caches and a refuge for insurgents.

On Friday, Iraqi and US forces raided Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque - one of the country's most important Sunni mosques. Several other clerics have been arrested with dozens of their followers since the middle of November.

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