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Three Killed In Iraq Ambush

Insurgents ambushed a convoy of American and Iraqi forces in the northern city of Mosul, detonating a roadside bomb and firing from a mosque in an attack that killed three Iraqi National Guardsmen, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The troops were bringing heaters and other supplies to a school when they came under attack, a military statement said. The convoy was first hit with a roadside bomb and then sprayed with gunfire from a nearby mosque. Three Iraqi troops were killed and six were wounded. No Americans were reported hurt.

Violence has surged in the run-up to Iraq's Jan. 30 election, and Mosul has been a major trouble spot in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi acknowledged that parts of Iraq probably won't be safe enough for people to vote and said he plans to boost the size of the country's army from 100,000 to 150,000 men by year's end.

In an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer defended the coalition's decision to disband Saddam Hussein's military after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 and bar senior members of the Baath Party from government jobs.

Some have criticized the move, saying it helped push out-of-work military men into the ranks of the insurgency. But Bremer cited past abuses against Iraq's Kurds and repressed Shiite communities as "monuments to Saddam's army's brutality toward Iraq's citizens."

He wrote that disbanding the army reassured Iraq's Kurds and was a decisive factor in convincing them to remain in a united Iraq.

"This decision ... signaled to the Iraqi people the birth of a new Iraq," Bremer wrote.

In other developments:

  • The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has come to an end, the Washington Post reports. The paper says violence in Iraq and an absence of new information prompted U.S. weapon hunters to return home before Christmas.
  • Support in Britain for the Iraq war has fallen to a record low, although a majority of Britons believe elections there should go ahead as planned on Jan. 30, according to a scientific poll published Wednesday in a London newspaper. Only 29 percent of people questioned by pollsters Populus believe the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, down from a peak of 64 percent in April 2003.
  • The prosecution rested its case against Spc. Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader of the at Abu Ghraib prison abuse. Graner's defense was scheduled to begin Wednesday.
  • Proceedings resume Wednesday in San Diego in the case of a Navy lieutenant accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners in November 2003. The lieutenant is accused of assault, maltreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer for his handling of detainees.

    Allawi discussed preparations for this month's election by telephone with President Bush on Tuesday, and both leaders underscored the importance of going ahead with the vote as planned, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

    The prime minister said at a news conference that "hostile forces are trying to hamper this event."

    "Certainly, there will be some pockets that will not be able to participate in the elections for these reasons, but we think that it will not be widespread," Allawi said.

    Also Tuesday, gunmen stopped three trucks carrying new Iraqi coins south of Baghdad and killed the drivers, stole the money and set the trucks on fire, a police official said.

    The attack occurred near the town of Salman Pak, some 12 miles southeast of Baghdad. The trucks were carrying the money from the southern port city of Basra to the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad, the official said on condition of anonymity.

    Police searching the area found the three burnt trucks a few miles from the scene before discovering the three burnt bodies of the drivers, he said. The official refused to say how much money was in the trucks.

    The Central Bank announced Jan. 1 that it would start circulating coins for the first time since Saddam's regime abolished them in the aftermath of the 1990 Gulf War. Coins were scrapped in 1991, when the international embargo sent Iraq's annual inflation rate soaring upward of 1,000 percent.

    Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed in action in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province, a military statement said Wednesday. The statement said only that the soldier, assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed Tuesday. The unit is based at Camp Fallujah west of Baghdad.

    The death brought to 1,356 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003. At least 1,069 died as a result of hostile action, the Defense Department said. The figures include three military civilians.

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