Bush calls end to 'major combat'
U.S. Central Command: Seven hurt in Fallujah grenade attack
ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CNN) -- From the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced in a nationally televised address that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
"In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment," Bush told the Navy men and women aboard the warship Thursday. (Transcript)
Bush also made a direct connection between the war in Iraq and the continuing war on terrorism.
"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on," Bush said. He then highlighted successes in Afghanistan, citing the construction of roads, hospitals and schools.
But the focus of the speech returned sharply to the connection between Iraq and terrorism.
"The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror," he said. "We have removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."
The USS Abraham Lincoln, en route to Naval Air Station North Island, near San Diego, California, has been at sea for nearly 10 months, after participating in both the Afghanistan and Iraq war theaters.
Bush made a historic landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on Thursday, arriving in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3B Viking after making two flybys of the carrier.
It marked the first time a sitting president has arrived on the deck of an aircraft carrier by plane.
The aircraft made a "tailhook" landing in which the plane, traveling about 150 mph, hooked onto one of four steel wires across the flight deck and came to a complete stop in less than 400 feet. (Full story, Interactive: The tailhook landing)
The exterior of the four-seat S-3B Viking was marked with "Navy 1" and "George W. Bush Commander in Chief."
Bush's plane flew from Naval Air Station North Island to the carrier about 100 miles offshore in the Pacific.
With the war winding down in Iraq, Operation Northern Watch, the U.S.-led campaign to enforce the northern Iraqi "no-fly" zone, officially came to an end with a ceremony Thursday at an air base at Incirlik, Turkey.
The northern and southern "no-fly" zones were put into place after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect Iraqi minority Kurds in the north and oppressed Shiite Muslims in the south from persecution by Saddam Hussein's forces.
The final northern "no-fly" zone flight was March 17, shortly before the first U.S.-led strike on Iraq. Planes that patrolled northern Iraq before the war have since been redeployed elsewhere.
In Fallujah, a town west of Baghdad, the U.S. Army said Thursday there was evidence that deadly violence this week between Iraqi protesters and U.S. soldiers may have been "orchestrated" by former ruling Baath party officials.
"The incidents in Fallujah, while unfortunate, showed a distinct pattern and appear to be orchestrated," said Brig. Gen. Daniel Hahn, Army V Corps chief of staff.
"We have information that former Baath party members remain in Fallujah and are organizing small groups to demonstrate against coalition forces," Hahn said. "These outside agitators then use the demonstrating crowds as cover as they fire on coalition forces."
Early Thursday, unidentified assailants tossed two grenades into a U.S. military compound in Fallujah, slightly injuring seven soldiers, according to U.S. Central Command. Five required medical attention, Central Command said, and all are in stable condition.
Soldiers of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were evacuated from the compound, Hahn said.
One military officer said, "They tossed the grenades over the back wall where our vehicles are. ...
"We stayed awake for the rest of the night," adding that the injuries were not serious. (Full story)
Two demonstrators were killed and 15 wounded Wednesday in Fallujah, according to hospital officials, when U.S. forces fired at Iraqis who gathered to protest a Monday clash that killed at least 15 Iraqis. (Full story)
• The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking bids from consultants to help privatize state-owned Iraqi industries -- including the oil industry -- as part of its goal of establishing a free-market economy in that nation, according to a document that surfaced Thursday. In recent weeks, the U.S. Federal Reserve has shipped large amounts of U.S. currency to Iraq to cover immediate costs there. That has, to a degree, bolstered a somewhat shocked Iraqi economy. The USAID document indicates that the government is prepared to spend as much as $70 million in the first post-war year. (Full story, CNN/Money Special: Rebuilding Iraq)
• Britain is sending a diplomatic delegation to Iraq this weekend for the first time since before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday. Christopher Segar -- who was deputy head-of-mission at the British Embassy in Baghdad before it closed 12 years ago -- will be the head of the new British office, Straw said in a written statement. Segar will work with the U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and other organizations, and will "maintain contact with emerging political figures within Iraq," Straw said.
• A large gas station exploded in flames Thursday in central Baghdad. Witnesses said the blast was triggered by neighborhood residents firing gunshots into the air celebrating the return of electricity to the area. Several injuries were reported.
• U.S. security officials traveling with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday said they believe three shots were fired toward a vehicle in his convoy as it left the Iraqi capital for Baghdad International Airport. According to the officials, no shots were returned, and the vehicle was not hit.
• The British military and Iraqi railroad workers Wednesday made a test run of a vital rail line from Baghdad south to the port city of Umm Qasr. Expected to open for passengers Saturday, the train line should be a boon to the U.N. World Food Program, which plans to move some 140,000 tons of food per month along the route. The train also is expected to bring fuel oil from Umm Qasr to Baghdad to power electric plants in the Iraqi capital.
• Senior Bush administration officials said that U.S. forces have captured a member of an al Qaeda-affiliated terror group operating in Iraq. Officials did not provide his name. Sources said the captive belongs to a group operating west of Baghdad under the leadership of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian who U.S. officials allege masterminded the October assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman. (Full story)
CNN correspondents Karl Penhaul, Suzanne Malveaux Louise Schiavone and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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