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Senators hopeful U.S. 'scored' Saddam kill

U.S. confirms attack on convoy linked to deposed regime

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An Apache attack helicopter provides air cover for a U.S. military convoy near Hit, Iraq, on Sunday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military's Task Force 20 struck a convoy of Iraqi military vehicles last week, killing and capturing people with ties to the deposed Saddam Hussein regime, U.S. defense officials said Sunday.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are hopeful that Saddam was in the convoy but said there has been no confirmation.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that an aggressive effort is under way to find the deposed Iraqi president.

"I will not be surprised at any military action that would lead to the possibility that we have now finally killed Saddam Hussein," Roberts said.

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is also hopeful.

"Pat and I both hope that we've scored, but we don't know that," he said.

It is still unclear who might have been in the convoy, but the decision to attack the vehicles was based on intelligence gleaned from senior Iraqi regime officials in U.S. custody, according to one informed official, who declined to elaborate.

A senior Bush administration official said a number of people were taken into custody after the attack near al Qaim, near the Syrian border. It is not known how many people were killed in the strike that included Hellfire missiles and a ground assault.

Task Force 20, which also took part in the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, is made up of covert Special Forces from the U.S. military services.

The British newspaper The Observer reported Sunday that U.S. specialists are conducting DNA tests on human remains believed to be those of Saddam and one of his sons. The paper attributed the information to unnamed military sources, but defense officials said the report was incorrect.

"We did hit a convoy," one official said. "We know that the convoy was tied to former Iraqi officials."

The United States will try to identify the remains of those killed, the senior administration official said.

Senators: Bush should admit to 'five-year plan'

Also Sunday, two other U.S. senators urged the Bush administration to acknowledge that rebuilding Iraq will take at least five years.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said on ABC's "This Week" that Bush should make clear that U.S. involvement in Iraq is a "five-year plan."

Suspects are handcuffed with plastic ties during a night raid Saturday in Habaniyah.
Suspects are handcuffed with plastic ties during a night raid Saturday in Habaniyah.

"We have to understand the frustrations of the Iraqis and our own troops," Lugar said. "But we ought to understand as Americans, this is an opportunity for a democracy, for a vibrant economy, for a model that is different in the world and in the Middle East.

"We're into it. We had better make it work," he said.

The United States has about 150,000 troops in Iraq.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and a possible presidential challenger, said the United States should expect to keep more than 100,000 troops in Iraq for five years.

"It's time the president leveled with the American people, because no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people," Biden said. "They have not been informed of that fact."

Soldier killed in RPG attack

Earlier Sunday, another U.S. soldier died in the region from a rocket-propelled grenade attack. Nineteen U.S. troops have been killed in hostile action since President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1, according to the Pentagon. Another 37 have died in what are described as nonhostile incidents.

The soldier was fatally wounded in an attack on a convoy in Khan Azad, 12 miles south of the Iraqi capital, an Army spokeswoman said. The soldier died soon after arriving at a nearby combat support hospital, Sgt. 1st Class Mayra O'Neill said.

A second soldier was treated for superficial wounds and returned to duty, she said. The attack is being investigated.

In other developments, U.S. troops continued raids aimed at rounding up what U.S. Central Command said are militants responsible for recent attacks against occupying forces. Twenty-five people were detained along with weapons and ammunition during Saturday's missions, Central Command said.

Resistance to the occupying force appears to be coming from smaller groups with no central leadership, U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer said.

Bremer said he hopes to establish an interim administration for Iraq within six weeks.

Pipeline explosion reported

The U.S. military reported an oil pipeline explosion and fire Sunday in the town of Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad. The Army said a Humvee from the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment ran over a land mine in the same area, injuring two soldiers.

There were no reports of casualties from the pipeline blast that erupted with a wall of flames, a U.S. military official said. The conduit links oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

The military did not say what caused the fire and explosion, or provide further details.

The explosion came as Iraq prepared to relaunch oil exports, delayed for three months by the war.

The blast will not halt those plans, according to Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization. The stored oil is expected to be loaded onto tankers Sunday.

Tankers had been loading crude oil at storage tanks in Turkey in recent days. Turkey is Iraq's main export route from its northern oil fields.

Earlier this month, an oil pipeline between the two countries was damaged in a sabotage attempt.


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