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Eight-Hour Battle In Iraq

The relentless insurgency in the Sunni Muslim towns along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad on Monday killed an American soldier and wounded three others in two roadside bombings, one prompting an eight-hour firefight backed by attack aircraft, helicopters and tanks.

The two bombings hit U.S. military convoys in the adjacent towns of Habaniyah and Khaldiyah at about 9 a.m. The bombing in Khaldiyah prompted the big firefight in which two soldiers were injured and a civilian was hurt, according to Lt. Col. Jeff Swisher, of the 1st Infantry Division.

"At 9 this morning an American patrol was ambushed by IEDs (roadside bombs), RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and small arms fire. The patrol returned fire and support was called in," Swisher said, adding that 14 Iraqis had been detained.

In Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said a homemade bomb exploded at about 9:10 a.m. as a U.S. convoy passed in Habaniyah, killing one soldier and wounding another. He was the 305th American to die in the war.

Six soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were wounded Sunday in Fallujah in another roadside bombing, U.S. officials said.

In other developments:

  • In a village near Kirkuk, 145 miles northeast of Baghdad, U.S. troops were dispatched when 200 people marched on a government building, according to Maj. Gordon Tate of the 4th Infantry Division. Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported U.S. troops fired on the crowd, killing a 10-year-old boy. Tate said U.S. forces did not shoot although someone in the crowd did fire shoots.
  • European foreign ministers called for the United States to cede power to an independent, sovereign Iraqi government "as soon as feasible."
  • Soldiers of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division launched two dozen raids in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, and other areas in the north of the country, arresting 92 people and seizing weapons and ammunition. Four were taken into custody.
  • According to a report in Newsweek magazine, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld cut 16 of the 20 original State Department members of the U.S. postwar team because of ideological differences.
  • White House aides say they will cooperate with a Justice Department probe into whether Bush staffers broke federal law by naming a CIA agent married to a former envoy who went public with doubts about the case for war, The Washington Post reports.
  • The Bush administration has disputed assertions by leaders of the House intelligence committee that the United States went to war in Iraq on the basis of outdated and vague intelligence. Leaders of the House intelligence panel said in a letter last week to CIA Director George Tenet that the allegations against Iraq resulted largely from fragmentary and circumstantial evidence filled with uncertainties.

    At their monthly meeting, the 15 European Union foreign ministers said a new U.N. Security Council resolution was essential to formalize a transfer of power from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and that the United Nations "should play a vital role" in Iraq's reconstruction.

    The ministers statement said it was necessary to decide "on a realistic schedule for handing over political control to the Iraqi people…as soon as feasible." They were unable to agree on a timetable, however.

    In the al-Qurtan neighborhood on the north side of Khaldiyah, scene of several previous firefights between the U.S. military and guerrilla fighters, reporters saw four badly damaged farm compounds. Angry residents cursed at reporters who entered the fire zone after the battle.

    "American forces are here to provide security for the Iraqi people. If we are attacked, we are a well-trained and disciplined force, and we will respond," Swisher said.

    The U.S. soldiers did not begin withdrawing from the Khaldiyah fight until about 5:30 p.m. Reporters at the scene said it appeared the attackers were well-hidden in trees and shrubs lining the dirt road where the roadside bombs left four big craters.

    It looked as if the Americans had been pinned down, with the insurgents opening fire each time the U.S. patrol tried to withdraw, eventually causing commanders to call in jet fighters, A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, helicopters and tanks.

    Civilians, including women and children, could be seen fleeing. One Iraqi man, running away with his wife, three other women, a nephew and five children, said many homes were damaged. He refused to give his name.

    Raids in the 4th Division sector have intensified after Iraqi resistance fighters shot and killed three Americans in an ambush two weeks ago just outside Tikrit. In a coordinated series of attacks and ambushes against U.S. forces last week, nine Iraqi fighters were also killed.

    Of the 92 arrested, four were taken into custody in the joint U.S.-Iraqi raid.

    In another incident, 4th Infantry Division troops late Sunday killed one Iraqi and captured three others in a shootout nine miles south of Balad, U.S. officials said. In the car, troops found two M-16 rifles which belonged to two American soldiers who were abducted and killed in June, officials said.