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More Death In Baghdad

Violence claimed new victims in Iraq Monday as further questions surfaced about what prewar intelligence said about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

A U.S. soldier and his Iraqi interpreter were killed in a grenade and gun attack in north Baghdad, bringing to 152 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since the March 20 start of war — five more than during the 1991 Gulf War.

Two American soldiers and an Iraqi employee of a U.N.-affiliated relief agency were killed Sunday. The soldiers died in an ambush by attackers using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms near Tal Afar, a town west of the northern city of Mosul.

Meanwhile, the new chief of American and allied forces in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, announced plans to create a nearly 7,000-strong force of Iraqis to work with U.S. soldiers. Trained by U.S. forces, they are expected to be ready to begin operating within 45 days, he said.

In other developments:

  • Portions of an October intelligence report released by the White House on Friday suggests analysts felt that Saddam would consider an alliance with al Qaeda or terrorist attacks on the United States only if his power were threatened.
  • The British weapons adviser who killed himself last week was the source for a report claiming Prime minister Tony Blair's office had overhyped intelligence on Iraq, says the BBC. Now the news network faces question over the accuracy of its story, as Blair faces blame for his government "outing" the dead man.
  • Forensic teams are en route to a new mass grave, discovered by the
    The 101st Airborne near the village of Al Hatra last week that may contain 4,000-5,000 bodies. Many are women and children who appear to have been shot in their heads.
  • Documents from Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force include a map of Iraq's oilfields and a list of international oil companies labeled "foreign suitors for Iraqi oilfield contracts." The panel also had similar maps and lists for other oil-producing states. Their purpose to the task force was unclear. The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to force the release of task force documents.
  • Military officials say if international forces are ready to take over their areas of responsibility as expected, all 18,000 Marines in Iraq could be out of the country by September 1st.
  • Saddam is believed to be alive and probably hiding in Iraq, but is not orchestrating the daily attacks on American troops, says L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in the occupied country.

    Bremer said Americans should prepare for a long stay in Iraq.

    "It's clear that, given the size of the task, we're going to be there for a while," he said Sunday on NBC. "I don't know how many years."

    A Pentagon advisory panel suggested last week that coalition troops will need to remain in Iraq for at least two to five years to back up fledgling, postwar Iraqi police and military organizations.

    While acknowledging an ongoing security problem, Bremer told CBS News Face the Nation it is limited to a small part of Iraq. "Most of the country is quiet," he said.

    Bremer said there's no evidence of any central control in the hit-and-run attacks. Instead, the former diplomat blamed a small group of well-trained killers, "who are basically trying to hold back the tide of history in Iraq."

    Still, he said, running Saddam into the ground would ease the situation.

    "The sooner we can either kill him or capture him, the better, because the fact that his fate is unknown certainly gives his supporters the chance to go around and try to rally support for him," said Bremer.

    But a top Democratic lawmaker said Saddam's reach may be much wider than U.S. officials have indicated.

    "He's still alive and he controls that country," Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox.

    "Not through popularity, but through fear of retribution. I mean, I just came back from the place and people won't talk to you.…He's a big factor there," said Rockefeller.

    The area of Sunday's convoy attack near Tal Afar, 240 miles northwest of Baghdad, had been relatively peaceful in recent weeks, and the ambush was a worrying development for American forces trying to bring stability to Iraq.

    Most recent violence has occurred in an area north and west of Baghdad called the Sunni triangle, where some support for Saddam remains. Tal Afar lies outside that region.

    In other violence Sunday, a two-car convoy carrying members of the International Organization for Migration was ambushed near the southern city of Hilla when a pickup truck drove alongside one car and opened fire. The car collided with a bus, and an Iraqi driver died.

    To the south, in the holy city of Najaf, thousands of followers of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched six miles from the Imam Ali shrine to U.S. headquarters in the region, shouting slogans against the Governing Council and the Americans.

    "Long live al-Sadr. America and the Council are infidels," chanted the crowds.

    U.S. troops prevented the demonstrators from entering the headquarters and soldiers barricaded the building with Humvees. The crowd, some throwing rocks, dispersed after clerics read out an appeal by al-Sadr to go home.

    Earlier, al-Sadr said in a statement read inside the shrine that he wanted coalition forces to leave Najaf. In his Friday sermon, the cleric said he was recruiting a private army but fell short of calling for armed struggle against the U.S. occupation.

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