Tightening the noose in Iraq


"U.S. forces hunting top and midlevel leaders of the Iraqi insurgency are close to unraveling a network of five powerful clans that have funneled money, weapons and instructions to street gunmen and bomb makers, according to a U.S. Army commander.

"A decline in the number, though not necessarily the severity, of attacks on U.S. forces in recent weeks has allowed troops time to track the top level of the insurgency and the former regime -- an effort capped by the arrest of Saddam Hussein earlier this month.

"Over months of intelligence gathering that began with the arrests of an outer circle of Saddam's bodyguards, U.S. forces say they have reduced the ranks of rebel leaders coming from five powerful families.

"Those clans have largely directed the insurgency around Tikrit, Saddam's hometown and the hub of a volatile zone to the north and west of Baghdad where most of the attacks on coalition forces have been launched, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Army's 4th Infantry Division."


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