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Bomb Kills 7, Search For GIs Continues

A group of gunmen in two cars attacked a minibus heading to Baghdad from a Shiite town north of the capital Monday, killing seven passengers including a child, police said.

Meanwhile, thousands of soldiers continued their search for three comrades abducted in a May 12 ambush south of Baghdad. Four other U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi were killed.

Over the weekend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus raised hopes about the search, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman.

He told the Army Times he believed at least two of the missing soldiers were probably still alive, but that it couldn't be confirmed.

Petraeus gave no details or proof.

The commander also confirmed that the military knows who abducted the troops; an al Qaeda-connected group. But so far no one's been able to find the kidnappers, or their victims.

Former Marine Captain and author Nathaniel Fick said on CBS' Early Show that the intense danger and added human strain faced by the thousands of troops searching the area south of Baghdad, the search would likely go on until the missing soldiers are found.

"The human fatigue factor certainly has to be considered, but I think they have to keep searching. And I think they will," Fick told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.

The minibus attack underscored the sectarian violence and instability that continues to plague Diyala province north of Baghdad despite the three-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad and the surrounding areas.

The bus, which left the town of Khalis, was driving near the violence-wracked city of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, about 11:30 a.m. when it was ambushed outside the town of Hibhib, police said.

The stepped-up U.S. and Iraqi patrols of the capital during the crackdown have left the troops more vulnerable to attack by insurgents, military officials say.

The U.S. military reported Sunday that six U.S. soldiers on patrol in Baghdad were killed in a roadside bombing along with their interpreter on Saturday. A seventh soldier died in a blast Saturday in Diwaniya, a mostly Shiite city 80 miles south of the capital, where radical Shiite militias operate.

Those deaths brought the number of American troops killed in Iraq since Friday to at least 15 — eight of them in Baghdad. So far, at least 71 U.S. forces have died in Iraq this month — most of them from bombs.

In other developments:

  • In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb detonated near a group of Iraqi soldiers patrolling the Sunni-dominated Adil neighborhood, killing three of the soldiers and injuring two others.
  • The report made by the Iraq Study Groups may be poised for something of a renaissance, according to a report in The Washington Post. After its initial cool reception from lawmakers, the recommendations made by the group are getting another look from the White House and a now-Democratic-led Congress. The paper says the new interest comes from a growing urgency to find a bipartisan solution to the mired U.S. involvement in Iraq.
  • A mortar shell exploded Monday afternoon on the roof of Iraq's parliament building in the Green Zone compound in Baghdad, causing no injuries, a lawmaker said. "The shell landed almost above the office of the parliament speaker," said Sabah al-Saadi, a parliamentarian, adding that there was minor damage to the roof. Al-Saadi was inside the building attending a committee meeting with other lawmakers when the mortar shell hit.
  • Two U.S. Republican senators at an international conference hosted by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum in Jordan said Sunday that the U.S. has evidence Iran sent weapons and trainers to instruct militants in Iraq to carry out terror attacks. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told a panel discussion on Iraq's future that during a trip last week to Iraq, he saw "evidence that Iran was supplying weapons and bomb-making components to Iraqi terrorists." A former Iranian government official, who was on the same panel, denied the claims.
  • In another political setback, the leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, was diagnosed with lung cancer and headed to Iran for treatment, party officials said Sunday. Al-Hakim's absence is likely to create disarray in his Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq — a Shiite party the U.S. is counting on to push through benchmark reforms. News of al-Hakim's diagnosis came only hours after another top Iraqi leader, President Jalal Talabani, flew to the U.S. for a medical checkup. The 73-year-old Kurdish leader was hospitalized in Jordan three months ago after collapsing.

    In recent months, U.S. officials also have stepped up pressure on Iraq's religiously and ethnically based parties to reach agreements on a range of political and economic initiatives to encourage national reconciliation and bring an end to the fighting.

    Progress in meeting those benchmarks is considered crucial to continued U.S. support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government at a time when Democrats in Congress are pressing for an end to the war. Those benchmarks include enactment of a new law to manage the country's vast oil wealth and distribute revenues among the various groups.

    But prospects for quick approval received a setback Sunday when the country's Sunni vice president told reporters in Jordan that the proposed legislation gives too many concessions to foreign oil companies.

    "We disagree with the production sharing agreement," Tariq al-Hashemi told reporters on the sidelines of the Jordan conference. "We want foreign oil companies, and we have to lure them into Iraq to learn from their expertise and acquire their technology, but we shouldn't give them big privileges."

    The bill also faces opposition from the Kurds, who have demanded greater control of oil fields in Kurdish areas. Kurdish parties control 58 of the 275 parliament seats.

    Iraq's Cabinet signed off on the oil bill in February and sent it to parliament, a move that the Bush administration hailed as a major sign of political progress in Iraq. But parliament has yet to consider the legislation.

    Al-Hashemi is among three leaders of a Sunni bloc that controls 44 seats. Together, the Kurds and the Sunnis have enough legislative muscle to delay passage of the measure, which is likely to draw opposition from some Shiite lawmakers, too.

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