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Civilians shot dead at checkpoint

British tanks in Basra after the biggest offensive so far in Iraq by Royal Marine commandos.
British tanks in Basra after the biggest offensive so far in Iraq by Royal Marine commandos.

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Iraqi forces continue to hold out in Basra.
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Iraqi soldiers are trying to engage U.S. troops in a street fight, CNN's Walter Rodgers reports.
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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers have fired on a van carrying 13 women and children after it failed to stop at a military checkpoint in southern Iraq, killing seven people and wounding two others, U.S. Central Command has said in a written statement.

Four passengers were unhurt, the statement released Monday, said, adding that an investigation had begun.

The incident happened Monday afternoon at a U.S. Army checkpoint near the town of Najaf, two days after a suicide car bomber killed four U.S. soldiers by detonating his vehicle at a checkpoint in the region. (Full story)

According to Central Command the soldiers fired warning shots into the air after the van ignored requests to stop -- they then fired into the engine of the vehicle.

Unable to see inside the van the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle "as a last resort," the statement said. (Checkpoint killings)

Elsewhere bombing strikes continued throughout Iraq into Tuesday, hitting targets including a presidential palace on Baghdad's outskirts, the Karada Intelligence Complex in the south of the capital, the Information Ministry and Iraqi TV -- taking broadcasts off air for a few hours.

Other targets included those belonging to the Iraqi Republican Guard and its paramilitary force Fedayeen Saddam, U.S. officials said.

Arabic television Al-Jazeera said four children were killed when a missile struck a Baghdad neighborhood. The report has not been confirmed.

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq, the Pentagon reports an initial battle assessment indicates the Republican Guard's Medina Division -- which includes some of Iraq's most well-trained forces -- may have been cut in half by repeated bombings.

The Medina division is massed south of Baghdad in hopes of blocking an expected onslaught of ground troops from the U.S.-led coalition, U.S. military officials say.

Additional Republican Guard forces are moving to the region from north of Karbala, U.S. officials said, as elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division gather intelligence and periodically engage Iraqi units.

In other developments:

• U.S. Marines staged raids near Nasiriya Monday looking for "Chemical Ali," Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's cousin who commands Iraqi forces in the south. ('Chemical Ali' hunt)

• Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Monday that coalition forces were being "defeated on all fronts and are retreating in the face of strong strikes" carried out by a popular resistance. (Coalition in 'quagmire')

• Iraqi TV showed a video of Saddam and his two sons Monday -- a tape the state-run network said was new. U.S. officials have not said whether they believe Saddam survived the "decapitation" bombing at the beginning of the war.

• British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said about 8,000 POWs were currently being held by the coalition, many of whom surrendered. He also said that Britain was not likely to increase the number of its troops beyond the 45,000 that are now in the Gulf.

• A British military official said Iraqi paramilitary forces Monday were "indiscriminately" firing mortars in Basra, where U.S. and British forces are involved in a battle for control. (British anger)

• The U.N.'s food agency launched a $1.3 billion campaign to feed Iraqis once the fighting has stopped. The United Nation's World Food Program (WFP) began the appeal as part of an overall $2.2. billion call for aid, begun last week. (Food appeal)

• A Red Cross team met with captured Iraqi troops Monday and plans to hold more meetings with Iraqi prisoners later this week, the International Committee for the Red Cross said.

• Britain's Daily Mirror has hired veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett less than 24 hours after he was fired by NBC and National Geographic for saying on Iraqi TV the U.S. war plan has "failed." (Arnett sacked, re-hired)

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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