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(archive photo) 29 April 2004 -- The U.S. military has confirmed that 10 U.S. soldiers were killed today in three separate incidents in Iraq, Western news agencies and CNN television reported.

Eight soldiers were killed and four wounded in a car-bomb attack in Mahmoudiyah, 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, according to an unidentified U.S. military spokesman.

Another U.S. soldier was killed today in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his patrol in eastern Baghdad.

The 10th soldier was killed and several other soldiers were injured when a roadside bomb exploded outside the city of Baquba, north of Baghdad. An Iraqi civilian was also reported killed in the incident.

An Iraqi police officer was quoted as saying that four civilians were killed today when U.S. soldiers opened fire on a minibus near a checkpoint near the restive Iraqi town of Al-Fallujah.

In Al-Basrah, unknown gunmen shot and killed a foreign civilian who the British military believes to be South African.

One hundred twenty-six U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq this month.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines are continuing attacks against suspected militants in Al-Fallujah.

Reports say U.S. warplanes yesterday dropped laser-guided missiles and fired artillery rounds into three sections of the city believed to be sheltering some 1,500 insurgents. The attacks reportedly continued overnight.

U.S. military forces entered Al-Fallujah more than three weeks ago to put down an anti-coalition insurgency there and to bring to justice those who brutally murdered four U.S. security contractors in March.

A tentative cease-fire was brokered two weeks ago to allow for a negotiated end to the fighting. U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said yesterday that, despite the violence, the cease-fire remains in effect.

"It is certainly the intention of the coalition forces that the cease-fire continues," Kimmitt said. "What you're seeing today is a series of defensive responses. When we get shot at, we will respond. We will not sit there and take fire, even though there is a cease-fire ongoing."

It's still not clear what is really happening in Al-Fallujah, as the city remains too dangerous for journalists to report from freely. Witnesses speak of shortages of food, lack of medical care, and hundreds of Iraqi casualties since the start of the crisis.

This contrasts with the view of U.S. officials, who say the Marines are targeting fighters, not civilians. U.S. officials say the continued assaults are only in retaliation for insurgent-led attacks.

U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday that, according to his information, the situation in Al-Fallujah is improving.

"Most of Al-Fallujah is returning to normal. There are pockets of resistance, and our military along with Iraqis will make sure it's secure," Bush said.

Bush added, however, that he expects the violence in Iraq to escalate as a 30 June deadline approaches for the United States to hand over sovereignty to Iraqi officials.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is playing a leading role in brokering an end to the violence.

"The [council's negotiating] delegation said that the violations of the cease-fire did not mean an end of negotiations and, on that basis, according to the recent information that we have, things are going well, and the vast majority of Al-Fallujah residents are comfortable with this arrangement that negotiations will continue despite cease-fire violations," said governing council member Mohsen Abdel Hamid

In the south-central part of the country, some 2,500 U.S. troops continue to surround the Shi'a holy city Al-Najaf, where the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr remains in hiding. Al-Sadr has vowed to launch suicide attacks if U.S. forces move into Al-Najaf. Shi'a leaders say a U.S. attack in Al-Najaf risks alienating Iraq's majority Shi'a population.

Meanwhile, "The New York Times" today says an intelligence report by the U.S. Defense Department says special agents from Saddam Hussein's former government are behind many of the insurgent attacks.

The "New York Times" report, which quotes no named individuals, says many of the insurgents formerly worked in a secret Iraqi special-operations department known as M-14. The newspaper says the report draws on interrogations of captured M-14 members.

(Reuters/AP/AFP/CNN)
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