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Iraqi leader tours retaken city

Associated Press
Published September 13, 2005


TAL AFAR, Iraq - Iraq's prime minister toured the ancient northern city of Tal Afar on Monday - ignoring an alleged al-Qaida threat to strike with chemical weapons - to congratulate Iraqi forces for rousting militants from their stronghold near Syria, Iraqi television reported.

In Baghdad, a huge car bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in the upscale Mansour neighborhood Monday night, witnesses said. Hospital officials reported at least two people were killed and 17 were wounded.

Al-Iraqiya television, which showed no pictures, said Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was in the Tal Afar area despite an insurgent threat to unleash chemical and biological weapons against the force of 5,000 Iraqi soldiers and commandos, backed by 3,500 U.S. troops, who stormed into the city Saturday.

The offensive "was a great shock to al-Qaida," Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said. "They were thrown off balance and issued this threat. We will be on the lookout."

The offensive exacted a heavy toll on the insurgents, leaving almost 200 suspected militants dead and more than 315 captured, Iraqi military officials said.

Forty insurgents were killed in fierce clashes between militants and Iraqi troops on Monday.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warned Monday that U.S. "patience is running out" with Syrian interference across the border, and refused to rule out either a military strike or punishment through the United Nations.

Syria has become a hub for terrorists, Khalilzad said. The United States also accuses Syria of turning a blind eye to terror training camps on its soil.

He offered no proof and would not spell out what consequences Damascus might face.