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Bombings, Shootings Kill 16 Iraqis, 3 U.S. Soldiers

From Times Wire Services

Three car bombs in Baghdad and a series of bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least 16 Iraqis and two American soldiers Thursday. The U.S. military said a soldier also was killed Wednesday.

One of the U.S. soldiers killed Thursday died in a roadside explosion south of Baghdad, and the other was slain by gunmen who attacked his patrol, the U.S. military said. The soldier killed Wednesday was involved in a raid south of Baghdad to capture “foreign terrorists,” the military said.

America’s two top generals in the Middle East said a security operation in Baghdad was helping to curb violence after a surge of bombings and shootings in recent months.

The U.S. military has said the operation, for which 12,000 troops were redeployed to Baghdad, aims to stop sectarian warfare.

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“I believe there is a danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger,” Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said after meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. “I think Iraq’s far from it. I think that there’s been great progress in the security front here recently in Baghdad.”

Abizaid said he and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, were “very optimistic that the situation will stabilize.”

Casey also said the security operation was working.

“I think everybody has seen an improvement in the situation in Baghdad over the last weeks because of the operations of the Iraqi security forces supported by the American Army,” he said. “And we’re confident that we can sustain that.”

In southern Iraq, British troops pulled out of a base Thursday that had come under frequent attack. They planned to reposition forces along the area bordering Iran to crack down on smuggling.

Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, was turned over to Iraqi authorities, Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a spokesman for British forces, said from Basra. The camp in Maysan province had housed about 1,200 troops.

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr painted the British move as the first expulsion of coalition forces from an Iraqi urban center.

“This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!” said a message from Sadr’s office that played on car-mounted speakers in Amarah, capital of Maysan. “We have to celebrate this occasion!”

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The withdrawal sparked wide-scale looting at the base and intense clashes Thursday night between Iraqi army forces guarding the camp and unknown attackers, a military intelligence official said.


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