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Deadly Milestone In Iraq

A U.S. soldier was killed Friday when guerrillas detonated a bomb under a military convoy in which he was traveling in the violent "Sunni Triangle" city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, the military said.

The 3rd Infantry division soldier died from injuries in the mid-afternoon attack on the main Fallujah bridge over the Euphrates River, according to spokeswoman Sgt. Amy Abbott.

He was the 148th U.S. soldier to fall in combat since the war began – one more than died in the first Iraq war 12 years ago, reports CBS News Correspondent David Hawkins. Since major combat operation ended May 1, a total of 34 soldiers have now been killed.

The death came as U.S. troops continued to try to stabilize the country and protect themselves from attacks by remnants of Saddam Hussein's toppled regime.

U.S. Army engineers defused what they describe as a huge homemade bomb found on a highway near the Baghdad airport during a routine patrol.

Soldiers operating outside Saddam's hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq say they found weapons cache in a farmhouse that includes 250 assault rifles, eleven-thousand rocket-propelled grenade rounds, and two tons of C4 explosives.

And in another symbolic thrust at the former regime, the U.S. military used 12 pounds of plastic explosives to topple a 30-foot statue of Saddam in Tikrit.

In other developments:

  • The White House released excerpts from a classified October 2002 intelligence document on Friday to demonstrate how flawed intelligence on Iraq's nuclear-weapons ambitions wound up in President Bush's State of the Union address.
  • A U.S. intelligence official said Friday a new audio recording purportedly of Saddam is probably authentic and likely was recorded recently — a finding that was further evidence Saddam survived the war.
  • At a joint White House news conference, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair heatedly defended their decision to wage war in Iraq on Thursday. The president insisted Saddam was a "grave and growing" threat that would have been "reckless" to ignore.
  • The U.S. civilian administration is considering a plan to hire former Iraqi soldiers as private guards at key sites. The idea is only under discussion, but might involve a private company operating under a contract funded by taxpayers.
  • More people, more money and more international assistance are needed to "supercharge" the reconstruction of Iraq, according to a Pentagon advisory panel that visited the country and surveyed the progress being made by the U.S.-led administrators.

    The panel said in its report that, "Given the daunting array of needs and challenges, and the national security imperative for the United States to succeed in this endeavor, the United States needs to be prepared to stay the course in Iraq for several years."

    The panel, led by the Council on Foreign Relations, concluded the next year will be crucial for Iraq, and the next three months particularly important for restoring security. The reconstruction effort will need more resources to meet those goals, the study finds.

    Amid a sense that violence is increasing in Baghdad and points north, "the window for cooperation may close rapidly if (Iraqis) do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity," the panel warned.

    Resistance to the American occupation has been especially strong in the so-called triangle that stretches north and west from Baghdad. It is a stronghold of support for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

    Friday's deadly attack took place about 3:30 p.m. after more than 24 hours during which the military had not reported any attacks on American forces. Fallujah police have been patrolling the city without U.S. escorts for about a week. Police complained they felt endangered in the presence of Americans.

    Earlier a witness reported seeing four U.S. soldiers evacuated from the scene of the attack and said three American Humvees were badly damaged. The military said it had no information on the number of injured and any other details of the attack.

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