WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2008 – Coalition forces North of Samarra in Iraq today detained 18 suspected terrorists during operations to disrupt al Qaeda networks operating in the central and northern parts of the country, military officials said.

— North of Samarra, coalition forces captured an alleged al Qaeda in Iraq agent linked to supplying improvised explosive devices and weapons to terrorists operating in the region. Reports indicate the detainee has ties to senior al Qaeda leaders. Four other suspects also were detained.

— Coalition forces north of Baqouba detained six more terrorism suspects.

— In Tarmiyah, coalition forces detained two suspects. Southwest of Baghdad, a suspected terrorist was detained during an operation targeting an alleged IED cell leader in Karkh.

— Further north in Sharqat, coalition forces detained four more suspects linked to al Qaeda in Iraq operations.

“Each capture is another step forward on the path to an Iraq free from al Qaeda’s violence,” said Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. “While al Qaeda is still capable of brutal and spectacular attacks, we are working to dismantle their networks and keep them off balance.”

Yesterday, a major local roadway was re-opened for civilian use during a ceremony held in the Shifta district in Baqouba.

Kharesan Street, a main roadway linking northern and southern Baqouba, had been closed due to terrorist attacks, including IEDs and small-arms fire. The road was reopened after Iraqi and coalition forces cleared the area.

“We celebrate this day by opening this road,” Diyala Police Chief Gen. Ghanem Al Kurashi said during a news conference. “We thank the people for cooperating with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army.”

Re-opening the road “helps the people get to the markets and will help the city become stable,” said Baqouba Mayor Ahmed Hameed. “We are especially thankful for the Iraqi security forces’ assistance.”

In other news, U.S. soldiers found two weapons caches in Baghdad’s Rashid district Jan. 26.

The first cache contained a 105 mm artillery round, 15 blasting caps, three grenade fuses, two cans of 7.62 mm rifle ammunition and a magazine of 9 mm cartridges.

The second cache contained 24 mortar initiators, three rocket-propelled grenades, four sticks of plastic explosives, seven blasting caps, a detonator, 300 feet of copper wire, two rocket fins, 8 feet of detonation cord and 10 machine-gun rounds. The confiscated ordnance was destroyed.

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers with Troop B, 1st Cavalry Regiment, found a large weapons cache near the home of a recently captured suspect in Narhwan, Iraq, Jan. 25.

The detainee was captured Jan. 23, and he is linked to a terrorist weapons-smuggling operation that passed through Narhwan. He also was connected to attacks on coalition forces and local citizens, Army Capt. Jared Albright, Troop B commander, said. “He has also bragged about having a sniper rifle and threatened local citizens with it,” the captain added.

The cache was found buried behind the home of the arrested suspect. It included eight rocket-propelled grenades, 30 RPG expellant charges, three RPG launchers, a tactical vest, three AK-47 magazines, 5,200 rounds of small-arms ammunition and one machine gun.

“Getting these weapons out of insurgents’ hands and off the street has been a huge relief to the local community. Many have said they feel safer now that he is behind bars,” Albright said.

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