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Ramadi Still Troublesome For U.S.

Insurgents attacked several U.S. bases and government offices with mortars and rockets Thursday before dispersing in the capital of western Iraq's Anbar province, residents and police said.

The attacks in Ramadi occurred as local tribal leaders and U.S. military officials were to hold their second meeting in a week at the governor's office in the city center. The insurgents apparently tried to shell the building, but reporters inside said there was no damage or injuries.

Police Lt. Mohammed Al-Obaidi said at least four mortar rounds fell near the U.S. base on the eastern edge of the city, but that there were no reports of casualties.

A U.S. Marine spokesman in Ramadi said reports of insurgents taking control of Ramadi are completely unsubstantiated and only a few small arms engagements occurred Thursday, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. Ramadi is a problem spot for Coalition forces, who regularly come under attack there by mortars and roadside bombs.

In other developments:

  • The offensive came as President Bush said he hopes to shift more of the military burden onto the Iraqis as part of a strategy to draw down American forces.
  • Iraqi forces are eager to see American troops go home, reports , but often the insurgents are better armed than the police and soldiers. They complain they have to buy their own uniforms, and pay for their own body armor because the government equipment is such poor quality.
  • The German government still has had no contact from the kidnappers of a German woman seized nearly a week ago in Iraq, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday. Archeologist Susanne Osthoff and her Iraqi driver were taken last Friday, and were pictured in a videotape blindfolded on a floor, with militants standing beside them.
  • The British anti-war movement said Thursday it is sending one of its leading members to Iraq to try to secure the release of four kidnapped peace activists, including Briton Norman Kember.
  • Iraq's interior minister dismissed the senior inspector in charge of human rights on Thursday in connection with a scandal involving the torture of dozens of prisoners at a Baghdad prison, an official close to the minister said.
  • Two U.S. service members died of wounds suffered in combat and a Marine died in a non-hostile traffic accident, the U.S. military said Thursday. That raised the U.S. death toll for November to at least 84.

    The U.S. has just kicked off another offensive near Ramadi in an effort to clear the area of insurgents, reports McCormick.

    Insurgents also launched mortar rounds at the Ramadi auditorium where U.S. and Sunni Arab leaders met on Monday, The Washington Post reported this week.

    Residents said that within minutes, scores of masked gunmen, believed to be members of Jordan-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq group, ran into the city's streets but dispersed after launching attacks with mortars and Russian-made Katyusha rockets.

    It wasn't clear if the attacks left any casualties.


  • Ramadi is the provincial capital of Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, where clashes between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi troops have left hundreds of people dead in the past two years.

    About 500 Iraqi troops joined 2,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors in a move to clear insurgents from an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river near Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement.

    Commandoes and militias like the Wolf Brigade operating throughout the country have made people question who's really in control of Iraq's security forces, and why the Americans are looking for alternatives, reports Logan.

    "Frankly the army and the police aren't doing very well," answers the Wolf Brigade commander, Brigadier General Amir al-Dulaimi. "We can't provide adequate security. We need the Americans to help us. We are still in need of the Americans' help whether we want it or not."

    "When Americans go out they have their knives, torches, pistols, everything but we don't," said Pvt. Mahmoud Kassem, "so if there's a battle we get killed but the Americans don't.

    Interior Minister Bayan Jabr fired Nouri al-Nouri, the ministry's chief inspector for corruption cases and human rights violations, on the order of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, an official said.

    Al-Nouri, a Shiite Muslim, had been in the post since the hand over of sovereignty to Iraqi in June 2004.

    Al-Jaafari, a Shiite, ordered a probe into the alleged mistreatment of up to 173 detainees after U.S. forces entered a ministry of interior lock up on Nov. 13 and found at least some of those being held showed signs of torture.

    Meanwhile, a group of influential Sunni clerics Wednesday called for the release of five Westerners taken hostage last week, saying they should be granted their freedom as a humanitarian gesture.

    The Association of Muslim Scholars, believed to have contacts with some Sunni insurgent groups, has helped mediate the release of other Western captives in Iraq.

    The five include four aid workers from the group Christian Peacemaker Teams — Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, of London; and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both of Canada — and Osthoff, 43.

    The Sunni association said releasing Osthoff would recognize Germany's "positive" stand toward Iraq. Germany strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

    "It would be fatal to think, simply because we were not militarily involved in the Iraq war, that we're on the safe side," Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, told a newspaper. "Therefore we must not diminish our efforts in the fight against international terrorism."

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