Baghdad, Iraq — The U.S. military claimed an advantage in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq on Thursday, saying raids since the death of its leader have forced many of its foreign fighters out into the open to be captured or killed.
Iraq's bloodshed continued. At least 46 deaths from violence were reported across the country, including nine bullet-riddled bodies pulled from rivers - apparent victims of sectarian death squads.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, acknowledged Iraqi civilians were suffering most from the insurgency, accounting for 70 percent of all deaths and injuries, while the number of U.S. casualties did not appear to be on the rise.
But he said the Americans gained momentum in their fight against al-Qaida in Iraq after killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and have devoted a lot of resources to targeting his successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
"There is no question, if we can take him down, that will just disrupt the organization ... to the point where it would be ineffective for a long period of time," Caldwell said. "It is very disorganized right now. And it is very disrupted right now."
He said coalition and Iraqi security forces had captured or killed 57 foreign fighters this month.
"The reason we were able to pick up and track some of these midlevel people ... in the last few weeks is because they've been forced to conduct meetings, to get out and be more visible, because their system has been so disrupted," he said. "And that has given us the opportunities to find them, track them and go get them."
On Wednesday, Iraqi authorities said they had captured an al-Qaida suspect from Tunisia who allegedly bombed a Shiite shrine earlier this year, setting off a spasm of violence between Sunnis and Shiites.