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U.S. Air Power Targets Insurgents

A U.S. aircraft destroyed a Baghdad office of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killing two people and injuring six others, his followers said Monday. There was no comment from the U.S. command.

In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, gunmen fired on a vehicle Monday morning, killing two foreign construction workers and their Iraqi driver, the city's police chief said.

Insurgents have targeted foreigners working on reconstruction projects, attacks that have slowed down the reconstruction and put in question the critical U.S. goal of rebuilding Iraq.

And U.S. Marines in Fallujah began joint patrols with Iraqi security forces Monday in the city under the agreement that ended the almost monthlong siege of the city.

In other developments:

  • The military is moving quickly to try soldiers accused in the prisoner abuse case in Iraq. Next week, on May 19th, the military will begin a series of courts-martial in the Abu Ghraib abuse allegations. A Pennsylvania reservist, Specialist Jeremy Sivits of the 372nd Military Police company, will be first to face a military court.
  • President Bush heads to the Pentagon for a briefing Monday on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism. He'll also make a statement to reporters, giving him another chance to defend Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against calls for his resignation, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller.
  • A senior general and a Republican senator say the U.S. could lose in Iraq, and are pointing the finger at Rumsfeld. "I think we are right on the edge in Iraq right now," says Sen. Chuck Hagel.
  • Iraqi insurgents bombed an oil pipeline in southern Iraq, sparking a blaze that has burned for more than a day, officials said Monday.
  • The Al-Taff Martyrs Brigade, a previously unknown group, on Monday warned foreigners in Basra — especially Americans, Britons and Kuwaitis — that they will be targeted for kidnapping and assassination.
  • The U.S.-led occupation authority has handed control of seven Iraqi government ministries from Western advisers to U.S.-appointed Iraqi ministers, as part of the U.S. plan to give nominal sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30.

    On Monday, U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer turned over the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources to its Iraqi minister, saying the office was ready to govern itself. Some U.S. advisers will remain on the ministry staff.

    "Today we pass another milestone on the path to full Iraqi sovereignty," Bremer said in an outdoor ceremony in Baghdad's U.S.-controlled green zone, as machine gun-toting security guards scanned the audience from behind their sunglasses.

    With the handover ceremony just 52 days away, Bremer is in the midst of a slew of transition tasks that will see his own job dissolved, alongside the U.S.-led occupation power, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, a spokesman for al-Sadr, said the air attack in Baghdad occurred around midnight Sunday. At the same time, U.S. troops also opened fire from nearby streets, destroying a car and a house, he said.

    Al-Darraji said two people were killed and six injured but did not say whether they were al-Sadr fighters or whether the casualties were due to the airstrike or ground fire.

    The office, located in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, lay in rubble Monday. Residents took to the streets with white plastic buckets and wheelbarrows to remove the rubble. It was one of two main al-Sadr offices in the Baghdad area.

    Several Iraqi children displayed gray and white pieces of what appeared to be from a Hellfire missile.

    The U.S. command in Baghdad said it had no report on an air attack.

    However, a statement by the command said U.S. troops clashed Sunday with "numerous anti-Iraqi forces" in Sadr City, killing 19 of them in separate engagements.

    "All 19 insurgent casualties carried rocket-propelled grenade launchers," the statement said.

    One U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by a grenade but there were no U.S. casualties, the statement added.

    U.S.-led forces have been trying to kill or capture al-Sadr and disband his militia after an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for the young cleric in connection with the killing last year of a moderate religious leader in Najaf.

    In Kirkuk, the group that was attacked was headed downtown to shop when their car was attacked, said Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin, the head of Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk.

    The driver and one of the workers, a South African, were killed on the spot, and a New Zealander died later of his wounds, said police chief Torhan Abdel Rahman Yusuf.

    The U.S. military had no immediate information on the incident.

    Marines around Fallujah, riding Humvees and armored vehicles, entered the Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad in a convoy with Iraqi security forces in pickup trucks.

    The first Iraqi pickup truck flew the red, white and black Iraqi flag, which the Iraqi Governing Council has proposed changing to the outrage of many Iraqis.

    "It is a good day for peace in Fallujah," said Marine Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, after meeting with local leaders. "Nobody shoots, everybody waves and smiles. Any day that there is no shooting it is good."

    Marines began the siege of Fallujah on April 5 after the killing and mutilation of four U.S. civilian contractors.

    Ten Marines and several hundred Iraqis were killed before the siege was lifted in an agreement providing for the Americans to pull back and transfer primary security responsibility to an Iraqi force led by officers from Saddam Hussein's military.

    The Fallujah brigade is expected to number some 1,500 fighters, many of them soldiers from the old Iraqi army who live in the area. U.S. officials acknowledged some may have fought the Marines in the Fallujah siege.

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