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City leaders hand over Kut to Marines

Reports of suicide bombers seem to be outdated, Marine says

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U.S. Marines check a family for weapons and contraband at a checkpoint Saturday in Kut, Iraq.

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KUT, Iraq (CNN) -- After days of negotiations, religious and civic leaders of Kut handed over administrative control of the city Sunday to the U.S. Marines' Task Force Tarawa.

The Marines will serve as temporary administrators, allowing locals to perform as many governmental functions as possible. Iraqis trained by U.S. forces will be armed with weapons seized from the defeated Iraqi army and will patrol the city to counter any paramilitary fighters that might try to attack U.S. forces.

Intelligence reports had suggested that Kut, a settlement of 300,000 along the Tigris River, may have contained suicide bombers from other countries looking to launch attacks against U.S. troops.

But the reports appear to be outdated, and it "looks like the terrorists may be gone," a Marine told CNN correspondent Art Harris, embedded with the 2nd Marines. They acknowledge, though, that pockets of resistance still pose a threat.

Residents told coalition forces that they had shot and killed several terrorists and driven the rest out of town.

Not a single shot was fired as members of Marine Task Force Tarawa sent a convoy into the city Saturday, Marine sources said.

In nearby Numaniya, the Marines have set up a temporary camp at a former terrorist camp which spans several acres. The Marines seized documents from the site before setting up the base.

Saturday night, the Marines extended a dawn-to-dusk curfew in Numaniya to 9 p.m. They drove through the city broadcasting the message in Arabic through loudspeakers mounted on Humvees.

Throngs of children ran after the Humvees, giving the thumbs-up and flashing V-for-victory signs, as the townspeople smiled and waved. Marines asked residents if they could understand the message over the loudspeakers, which they said they could.

One Iraqi man, who said he was one of the few wealthy residents, said the people there need food, water, jobs and electricity.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.


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