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Panetta Says U.S. Forces Attack Iraqi Shi'ite Insurgents

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says U.S. troops are carrying out operations against Iranian-backed Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq almost a year after the military announced a formal end to its combat operations in the country.

Panetta made the announcement today during a previously unannounced visit to Iraq. He said U.S. forces have carried out joint operations with the Iraqi security forces as well as unilateral missions against militants.

Tehran has denied U.S. accusations that it is smuggling weapons and ammunition to support militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. forces formally ended combat operations at the end of last August. About 46,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from a high of 170,000 after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

They are scheduled to leave in less than six months unless a deal is reached between Baghdad and Washington.

compiled from agency reports

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