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U.S. begins new military operation in Iraq

U.S. troops screen people entering and leaving Fallujah.
U.S. troops screen people entering and leaving Fallujah.

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FALLUJAH, Iraq (CNN) -- American troops in Iraq began a new operation Sunday that targets "Baath party loyalists, terrorist organizations and criminal elements" and delivers humanitarian aid to Iraqis outside Baghdad, according to the U.S. Central Command.

U.S. military officials called Operation Desert Scorpion the largest deployment in Iraq since April 7, the height of the U.S.-led war.

The operation began early Sunday with raids in the town of Fallujah, where elements believed to be loyal to the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein have launched repeated attacks against U.S. troops. (More on Fallujah raid)

A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said the operation would include military actions throughout Iraq.

U.S. forces in Fallujah and elsewhere have been under a constant barrage of hit-and-run assaults since May 1, the day President Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq.

The Coalition Provisional Authority's two-week "gun amnesty" ended Saturday. Iraqi civilians can keep weapons no larger than Kalashnikov rifles, but some Iraqis, particularly shopkeepers, have complained that handing in their weapons has left them defenseless against robberies.

Operation Desert Scorpion also includes engineering and civil affairs initiatives to repair damaged infrastructure and to support the growth of police forces and local government.

In Fallujah, U.S. troops brought in gasoline tankers and manned the pumps to dole out fuel to Iraqis, for whom hours-long waits for gas had become commonplace.

Though the nation is awash in oil, its refineries have been slow to restart and distribution of supplies has been spotty since the major fighting ended.

Central Command said its forces detained about 400 Iraqis and seized numerous weapons and ammunition during the previous operation, dubbed Peninsula Strike. By Sunday, all but 30 detainees had been released.

During the raids, two former Iraqi generals turned themselves in, Central Command said. Maj. Gen. Abul Ali Jasmin, secretary of the Defense Ministry, and Brig. Gen. Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of the Iraqi Military Academy, were detained for questioning.

Iraqi villagers said U.S. forces killed five civilians during one raid, but Central Command did not confirm the allegation. The military said two "hostile civilians" were wounded.

Intelligence review

Meanwhile in Washington, the Senate Intelligence Committee will likely issue a report and may hold public hearings after a closed review of U.S. intelligence used to build the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq, its chairman said Sunday.

"I issued an open invitation to anybody who believes their analytical product was skewed in any way, or if they were intimidated or if they were coerced, that they can come to us," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told CBS's "Face the Nation."

The House Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committees are participating in the review, which Roberts said falls short of a formal congressional investigation.

The Bush administration said the March 20 invasion of Iraq was needed to strip Baghdad of its chemical and biological weapons before they could be given to terrorists.

But more than two months after the U.S.-led coalition ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, all that has been found in Iraq are two trailers the Pentagon said could have been used to produce biological weapons.

Critics have suggested the Bush administration overstated the threat from Iraq in order to win support for Saddam's ouster.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Plante contributed to this report.

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