U.S. special forces Wednesday raided the Baghdad home of a microbiologist nicknamed "Dr. Germ" who ran Iraq's secret biological laboratory. In the northern city of Mosul, tensions were high after anti-American unrest in which, according to U.S. Central Command, seven people were killed by U.S. troops.
In Washington, the Bush administration lowered the national terror alert level to "yellow" Wednesday for the first time since March 17, days before the war began.
The special force raid in Baghdad, backed by about 40 Marines with machine guns, was carried out at the home of Rihab Taha, who was in charge of a laboratory that weaponized anthrax. Troops brought out boxes of documents and three men with their hands up.
Taha is the wife of Gen. Amer Mohammed Rashid, Iraq's former oil minister. Her whereabouts weren't immediately known.
The incident in Mosul, which occurred Tuesday, was one of the worst involving U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of the U.S. Central Command, at a briefing Wednesday, said American troops were trying to secure a government building when a crowd of townspeople began throwing rocks at them, hitting them with fists, spitting at them and setting cars afire. He said some of the Americans fired back after shots were fired at them and some members of the crowd began trying to climb over a wall into the government compound.
"Fire was, indeed, delivered from coalition forces. It was lethal fire, and some Iraqis were killed ... on the order of seven," Brooks said. "The attacking was occurring from two sides and there was clear observation of men with weapons involved in firing on the building."
Another shooting occurred in Mosul on Wednesday; hospital officials said three people were killed and 11 wounded. Some of those wounded accused American troops of firing at them from rooftops, but a Marine sergeant denied that and said Americans on one roof were only returning gunfire from another building.
In a more upbeat development for U.S. troops, the overall commander of the war, Gen. Tommy Franks visited Baghdad on Wednesday, his first trip to the capital since combat.
The decision in Washington to lower the United States' terrorism alert - from "orange," or high risk, to the lower level "yellow," or elevated risk - was based on the end of major fighting in Iraq and reviews of intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security said.
On the outskirts of Baghdad, a Marine unit found a terrorist training camp where bomb-making apparently was taught. A Marine spokesman, Cpl. John Hoellwarth, said the camp consisted of about 20 permanent buildings and had been operated jointly by the Iraqi regime and the Palestine Liberation Front.
Among the documents found were forms that included such questions as "What type of missions would you like to carry out?" according to Hoellwarth. He said many recruits replied that they wanted to carry out suicide missions.
The camp included an obstacle course and what appeared to be a prison, to teach terrorists what to do if captured and interrogated, Hoellwarth said. Recruits were also apparently taught how to make bombs, he said; the Marines found chemicals, beakers and pipes.
Despite the start of joint U.S.-Iraqi police patrols in Baghdad, throngs of looters ransacked sacks of sugar, tea, flour and other food supplies Wednesday from warehouses at the International Fairgrounds. Booty was piled into a red double decker bus, or stuffed into cars which soon became tangled in a traffic jam.
A U.S. armored personnel carrier was less than a mile away, but the soldiers did not intervene.
The looting came a day after small numbers of Iraqi policemen resumed law enforcement duties, and made their first arrest, in an American-backed effort to curtail the looting and lawlessness that has plagued Baghdad since Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed.
In one of the U.S. military's most successful policing actions yet, a Marine patrol passing the Iraqi National Bank caught armed robbers Tuesday and recovered $3.6 million in U.S. currency.
Other Marine patrols conducted raids, sometimes accompanied by Iraqi police, to secure key infrastructure sites. U.S. forces are trying to provide security for hospitals and establish a cellphone service for emergency services to use while the regular telephone system is repaired.
In western Iraq, an U.S. Army cavalry unit accepted the surrender of the 12th Iraqi Brigade, seizing 40 tanks and close to 1,000 weapons, said Marine Maj. Stewart Upton, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. He said the number of prisoners taken had not yet been calculated.
Although major combat in Iraq is over, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said he remains worried that Iraqi chemical or biological weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The U.S. military is conducting far-flung searches of suspected illegal weapons sites, but so far has not confirmed finding any of the weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration says Iraq was hiding.
"We still have a lot of work to do in finding and securing weapons of mass destruction sites and making sure that those biological and chemical weapons don't fall in the hands of terrorists," Myers said Tuesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."
U.S. officials announced that Abul Abbas, leader of the Palestinian group that killed an American on the hijacked cruise liner Achille Lauro in 1985, had been captured in a commando raid in Baghdad.
Brooks, at the Central Command briefing, said the capture of Abbas - whose real name is Mohammed Abbas - underscored the link between Saddam's regime and terrorism.
"The lawyers will take over and decide exactly what actions ought to be taken with Mr. Abbas from here on out," Brooks said. "Our role was to remove terrorist from Iraq and break the terrorist connections that exist within Iraq. He is part of that terrorist connection."
U.S. officials would not disclose their plans for Abbas, captured during one of several commando raids Monday on hideouts of the Palestine Liberation Front. Commandos captured several associates of Abbas, as well as documents and weapons.
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday demanded Abbas' release, saying his arrest violated a 1995 interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that was signed by then-President Clinton. According to the deal, no PLO officials were to be arrested for violent acts committed before the 1993 Israel-PLO pact of mutual recognition, said a Palestinian Cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat.