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British troops in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah (file photo) (AFP)
June 19, 2006 -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki has announced that coalition troops will withdraw from the southern province of Al-Muthana next month and hand over security duties to local forces.
British troops currently oversee a multinational contingent including Japanese and Australian soldiers in Al-Muthana.
This will be the first of Iraq's 15 provinces outside the relatively peaceful north to be placed under full Iraqi control.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi troops are in the midst of an operation to flush out insurgents from their western stronghold of Al-Ramadi. The offensive involves U.S. tanks, helicopters, and war planes.
In Baghdad, at least four civilians were killed by a car bomb at an Iraqi Army checkpoint despite an ongoing security crackdown in the capital involving thousands of additional Iraqi and U.S. troops.
(compiled from agency reports)