IRAQ Marines launch raid in Sunni province

The head of Iraq's karate association has been kidnapped for unknown reasons.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Hundreds of U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers have launched new raids against insurgent strongholds in a volatile Sunni province, and the head of Iraq's karate association became the latest victim of kidnapping, officials said Saturday.
A provincial official of the country's largest Shiite party also was wounded Saturday in an assassination attempt in Mosul, police said, and gunmen fired on the convoy of a provincial governor northeast of Baghdad.
Operation Scimitar began Thursday with raids in Zaidan, 20 miles southeast of Fallujah, the military said. So far, 22 suspected insurgents have been detained.
Fallujah, a western Anbar province city 40 miles west of Baghdad, was a major insurgent bastion until U.S. forces overran the city in November.
The military said it did not announce the offensive earlier because commanders did not want to tip off insurgents. The campaign -- named after a curved Asian sword -- includes 500 Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team-8, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, the military said.
The head of Iraq's karate association, meanwhile, was kidnapped south of Baghdad, sports officials said Saturday. Ali Shakir was abducted Thursday in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Ahmed Hashim, an Iraq Olympic committee official.
It was not clear why Shakir was taken. Hundreds of Iraqis have been abducted during the last two years -- some by insurgents for political and sectarian reasons and some by criminal gangs for ransom.
His abduction came two days after a Web site claimed that Al-Qaida in Iraq had killed Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif, who was seized by up to eight gunmen on a street in western Baghdad last weekend.
Al-Sherif's abduction and attacks against Pakistani and Bahraini envoys have sent shockwaves through the diplomatic community in Iraq and raised concerns about a possible exodus of diplomats, especially Arab delegations. Neighboring Jordan said it would not bow to fears.
Jordan will send its ambassador to Iraq "sooner rather than later," King Abdullah II said in a CNN interview aired Saturday. "We are not going to allow again these limited extremists that are trying to destabilize the future of Iraq to have any effect," he said.

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