An Iraqi insurgent commander with Zarqawi's group who claimed he helped lead the Abu Ghraib assault said in a recent interview that the movement had been scouting Anbar province, the area of Monday's assault, in search of a U.S. base to attack with suicide bombers and heavy weapons.
The commander, who goes by the name Abu Salim, did not cite other possible targets for insurgent strikes. Another commander, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Jalal, a member of the Sunni Muslim-led insurgent group Mohammed's Army, said in a separate interview that Zarqawi's group intended more assaults on U.S. installations in an effort to strike fear among the 138,000 U.S. troops here.
Daily attacks by insurgents have dropped from triple digits to double digits since national elections in late January, according to officials. Iraqi insurgent groups such as Mohammed's Army draw heavily on former military men from the Sunni minority, which fell from dominance when President Saddam Hussein was ousted by U.S.-led forces in April 2003.
Leaders of the new government increasingly have been trying to draw Iraqi insurgents into the political process, splitting them from foreign fighters such as Zarqawi.
Meanwhile, in Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded Monday near a U.S. convoy in a street market crowded with customers, killing at least two Iraqis, news agencies reported.
And in a sweep of the Rashid neighborhood of Baghdad, hundreds of U.S. soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops and police detained 65 suspected militants, the U.S. military said.
Also, a group claiming to have kidnapped a Pakistani Embassy official, Malik Mohammed Javed, over the weekend demanded money for his release, the Associated Press reported.
And an Iraqi Defense Ministry official said Monday that Iraqi security forces had arrested a person who claimed to have kidnapped two French journalists last year, the Associated Press reported. Iraqi soldiers detained Amer Hussein Sheikhan in the Mahmudiyah area of Baghdad on April 4, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were released in December after four months in captivity.