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18 April 2005 -- Iraqi security forces raided a town south of Baghdad early today after reports that Sunni militants had kidnapped some 100 Shi'ites. They found no evidence that anyone had been seized.
Army officials say the Iraqi troops -- backed by the U.S. military -- met no resistance during the raid. The soldiers found some stolen cars, ammunition and bomb-making equipment, but no hostages in and around the town of Madain.
Yesterday, caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group had seized hostages in the town to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war.
But an Internet statement issued by Al-Qaeda said the hostage crisis was fabricated as a pretext for government forces to raid Madain, a Shi'ite-Sunni town some 30 kilometers from Baghdad.