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Troops Face Najaf Mortar Barrage

Militiamen barraged a U.S. base Monday in the most intense attacks yet on U.S. troops in the holy Shiite city on Najaf, where the Americans have been holding back their full firepower to avoid enflaming the anger of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority.

Another American soldier was killed in Baghdad in an attack on a weapons cache he was guarding — the 12th GI killed in May and the 744th since the war began. The attack wounded two soldiers.

The shelling in Najaf began overnight, when some 20 mortars hit in and around the former Spanish base that U.S. troops moved into a week ago. There were no casualties.

Heavy mortar fire resumed at midday Monday, and U.S. troops returned fire. Tanks were moved up, swiveling their cannons — though they did not fire — and Apache helicopters circled overhead. Sniper fire could also be heard. Clashes eased several hours later but small arms fire and occasional mortar blasts could be heard throughout the afternoon.

The U.S. military has deployed at the base and outside Najaf to crack down on radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. But they have been hampered in responding to frequent al-Sadr fire out of fear of angering Shiites for whom Najaf is a holy city.

In other developments:

  • The names of 20 journalists who lost their lives during the war in Iraq last year were among 53 added to an Arlington, Va. memorial to those who died covering the news.
  • The U.S. military will likely bring in a new commander for the new Iraqi brigade in Fallujah, an official said, amid apparent uncertainty over the identities of the Saddam Hussein-era generals to whom the United States has handed over control of the guerrilla stronghold.
  • The Australian government is sending 53 extra troops to Iraq to help train the nation's fledgling new army.
  • Bulgaria sent 24 of its soldiers home after they complained about being unprepared for duty in Iraq, citing the growing danger since the beginning of the insurgency.
  • Seven U.S. soldiers have been reprimanded in connection with the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners carried out by guards at Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, a senior military official said on Monday.

    On the orders of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, six of the soldiers — all officers and noncommissioned officers — have received the most severe level of administrative reprimand in the U.S. military, the official said on condition of anonymity.

    A seventh officer was given a more lenient admonishment.

    Another six U.S. military police are facing criminal charges.

    An internal U.S. Army report found that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses," according to The New Yorker magazine.

    Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who oversaw the prison, said on ABC that she did not know about the prisoner abuse while it was happening.

    "They were despicable acts," Karpinski said Monday. "Had I known anything about it, I certainly would have reacted very quickly."

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the Army found intelligence officers had told the prison guards to harass the prisoners to make them easier to interrogate — apparently contradicting U.S. commanders' contention that the abuse was confined to low-level troops.

    Meanwhile, British military officers contended that a series of photos in the Daily Mirror tabloid purporting to show British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners are fake. They claim the weapons and uniforms depicted do not appear genuine, CBS News Correspondent Steve Holt reports. But the newspaper insists the pictures of hooded men being beaten and urinated upon are authentic.

    The Fallujah Brigade, made up of former soldiers from Saddam's army, took up further positions in the cordon around Fallujah, replacing Marines who were pulling back to form an outer cordon. The Iraqi brigade now controls a ring around the southern half of Fallujah and is due to begin patrols inside soon.

    U.S. officials say the Fallujah Brigade will crack down on hard-core guerrillas in the city — though the force itself will likely include some of the gunmen who last month were involved in fighting against the Marines.

    U.S. officials have shown confusion over the identities of the generals in the Fallujah force. Commanders on the ground said Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, once a member of a Saddam-era Republican Guard unit, was in charge, but the Pentagon denied that, saying

    Maj. Gen. Mohammed Latif, a former military intelligence officer, is likely to take command of the brigade. But Saleh moved into Fallujah on Friday at the head of the new brigade.

    U.S. officials have acknowledged they did not vet the leaders and members of the new brigade to see how close their ties were to Saddam's regime — a sign of the military's eagerness to find an "Iraqi solution" to a monthlong siege that had raised an international outcry and strained ties with U.S.-allied Iraqi leaders.

    Meanwhile, Hamill arrived in Germany, where he will have a checkup at a U.S. military hospital and see his wife, Kellie. A spokeswoman for Hamill's employer Halliburton says the tanker driver turned hostage will also be debriefed by military officials, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta.

    Hamill, a 43-year-old truck driver from Macon, Mississippi working for the Halliburton Corp. subsidiary KBR, was abducted by gunmen on April 9 after his convoy was attacked outside Baghdad. His fate had been unknown since he appeared in a videotape released the next day by his captors, who threatened to kill him within 12 hours unless the siege of Fallujah was lifted.

    On Sunday, Hamill reappeared in the town of Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad, when he ran up to a patrol from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, part of the New York National Guard, and identified himself. He then lead the soldiers to the house from which he had just escaped, and two Iraqis with an automatic weapon were arrested.

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