U.S. and Iraqi forces encircling the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar arrested 200 suspected insurgents — most of them foreign fighters — in a sweep through a militant-held district in the northern city near the Syrian border, the Iraqi military announced Thursday.
Iraqi army Capt. Mohammed Ahmed said 150 of those arrested Wednesday were Arabs from Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan.
The joint forces have reported heavy battles on the outskirts of the city and several deadly bombings that have mainly killed civilians. Iraqi authorities reported most of the civilian population had fled the city, which is 260 miles north of Baghdad and about 35 miles the Syria border.
"Our forces arrested 150 non-Iraqi Arabs yesterday in addition to 50 Iraqi terrorists with fake documents as they were trying to flee the city with the (civilian) families," Ahmed said.
"We ordered the families to evacuate the Sunni neighborhood of Sarai, which is believed the main stronghold of the insurgents," Ahmed said
Eight civilians were killed in the city Wednesday by a suicide car bomber at an Iraqi checkpoint, he said. On Thursday, the U.S. military said the combined American-Iraqi force had killed seven insurgents over the past two days.
In other developments:About midday Thursday, a suicide car bomber detonated his black BMW as a private American security convoy pass on its way to the nearby Sadir Hotel, wounding three passers-by. On Friday, a car bomb exploded near the heavily fortified downtown hotel, which is used by private Western security agents and construction workers, killing one hotel guard and wounding three. Police reported finding 17 unidentified bodies near a farming town south of Baghdad and on its outskirts. Soldiers and police collected 15 of victims on Thursday near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of the capital. "All the bodies are in civilian clothes and have no identification documents," said Lt. Adnan Abdullah of the Mahmoudiya police. They had been shot to death, he said. Two more decomposing bodies, blindfolded and handcuffed, were found on the outskirts of Baghdad, near a sewage plant, police said. An official of the court that will try Saddam Hussein discounted a claim by Iraq's president that the former leader had admitted wrongdoing in a confession to mass killings and other crimes during his rule. The official of the Iraq Special Tribunal, which will put Saddam on trial Oct. 19, said Saddam made a statement last month, but did not confess to criminal activity. The former dictator "boastfully" acknowledged a campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88.
© 2005 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.