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Fmr. Iraq Defense Head Surrenders

The last head of the Iraqi military — No. 27 on the list of most wanted Iraqis — has surrendered to U.S. forces in what American commanders hope could be a step toward thwarting attacks on soldiers.

Former General Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Iraq's last defense minister under Saddam Hussein, turned himself in to U.S. troops in northern Iraq after weeks of painstaking negotiations.

Dawood Bagistani, who arranged the surrender to Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, said Ahmad was handed over "with great respect" and was with his family at the time.

Bagistani said the American military had promised to remove Ahmad's name from the list of 55 most-wanted, meaning he would not face indefinite confinement and possible prosecution.

"We trust the promise," Bagistani said.

Special treatment for Ahmad could be an effort to defuse the guerrilla-style attacks that are taking a toll on American soldiers. Many of the attackers are thought to be former soldiers in Saddam's army. Seeing their former military leader well-treated by the Americans might encourage them to lay down their arms.

Ahmad was no. 27 on the list. Thirty-eight of that group are now in custody and 14 remain at large. Three are either dead or thought to be dead.

In other developments:

  • American soldiers backed by helicopters and armored vehicles fought off coordinated attacks by Saddam loyalists until dawn Friday after an ambush killed three U.S. troops and wounded two others near the ousted dictator's hometown. In the aftermath, a U.S. commander said American troops captured 40 suspected Iraqi guerrillas following the night-long battle.
  • American soldiers in northern Iraq fired on a car carrying the Italian official heading up U.S. efforts to recover Iraq's looted antiquities, killing the man's interpreter, officials said Friday in Rome. The Italian, Pietro Cordone, was unhurt. A foreign ministry official said it appeared the car's driver didn't understand the signals that the American troops were giving, and that the American's didn't understand what the car was trying to do.
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that a visit to post-war Iraq has convinced him that Iraqis are embracing freedom and heading toward democracy, and he pledged U.S. forces will stay until the country is fully democratic.
  • New mass graves were found in the holy Shiite city of Cabala under the al-Husseini Hospital, reports CBS News' Lisa Barron.
  • Top American scientists assigned to the weapons hunt in Iraq found no evidence Saddam Hussein's regime was making or stockpiling smallpox, The Associated Press has learned from senior military officers involved in the search.
  • Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy said Thursday that the case for going to war against Iraq was a fraud "made up in Texas" to give Republicans a political boost.

    The attacks near Tikrit, described by U.S. officers as rare in their length and intensity, were part of a series of ambushes Thursday, and the ongoing violence has raised questions about the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq.

    They took place a day after Al-Arabiya television broadcast an audiotape purportedly by Saddam calling on Iraqis to step up attacks against U.S. troops.

    Three soldiers from the Army's 4th Infantry Division were killed Thursday night when attackers ambushed their patrol in the village of Uja, just five miles south of the center of Tikrit, Lt. Col. William McDonald said. Uja was Saddam's birthplace.

    The ambush occurred as the soldiers were investigating a site believed to be used to launch rocket-propelled grenades at American military convoys.

    At about the same time, Saddam loyalists attacked two base camps with rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire, according to Col. James Hickey.

    "The attack was beaten off," Hickey said. "We repositioned ourselves and immediately returned fire and counterattacked with ground and air forces and mechanized infantry."

    Although U.S. troops in Tikrit regularly come under attack, Hickey said Thursday's assault was unusual.

    "We have seen instances of coordinated attacks two times in the past out of the scores of ambushes. But this one was coordinated and this something that worrying us and we are paying attention to it," Hickey said.

    Powell, writing Friday in The Asian Wall Street Journal, said it will take time and money to finish the job in Iraq.

    "Iraqis are on the road to democratic self-government," Powell wrote. "We will stay as long as it takes to turn full responsibility for governing Iraq over to a capable and democratically elected Iraqi administration."

    "What I saw there convinced me, more than ever, that our liberation of Iraq was in the best interests of the Iraqi people, the American people, and the world," he said, adding that Iraqi's government council is taking its first step toward drawing up a democratic constitution.

    Iraqis have come a long way since the days when Saddam was "filling mass graves with his opponents," Powell said, pointing to signs of freedom ranging from opinion-filled newspapers to parent groups forming to seek influence in their local school systems.

    Witnesses said three of the mass graves in Cabala were discovered accidentally when city workers who were repairing water pipes in the hospital found a large number of skeletons. Work at the site has stopped, while the graves are being investigated. Saddam's forces executed tens of thousands of people after a failed Shiite Muslim uprising in 1991.