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Pentagon delays soldiers' return from Iraq

One dead, six wounded in Baghdad convoy attack

A U.S. soldier examines the door of a military vehicle that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade Monday.
A U.S. soldier examines the door of a military vehicle that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade Monday.

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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
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The seven main political parties represented by the new governing council:

• Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
• Iraqi National Congress
• Kurdistan Democratic Party
• Islamic Dawa Party
• Iraq Democratic Party
• Iraqi National Coalition
• Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of U.S. Army troops initially scheduled to come home from Iraq during the next two months are being told they will have to stay for an unknown length of time, U.S. Army officials said Monday.

The delay affects 9,000 men in the Army's battle-weary 3rd Infantry Division, which has been in Iraq since the start of the war. A soldier in that division was killed Monday in Baghdad when his convoy was attacked with multiple rocket-propelled grenades.

With security in Iraq still a concern, Army officials said that U.S. troops are still needed in the country.

The decision will leave two brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq for an unknown length of time, Army officials said.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate panel that according to a redeployment plan, the 2nd Brigade would return to its home at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in August. It has been in the gulf region since September.

That would be followed by the return of the 1st Brigade in September. That unit has been in Kuwait and Iraq since January.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division is in the process of returning home to Fort Benning, Georgia. The first of those soldiers returned last week.

At its peak, the 3rd Infantry Division had about 16,500 solders deployed in Iraq, according to Army officials.

The 3rd Infantry Division was the first of the U.S. troops to enter Iraq after a blitzkrieg offensive launched from Kuwait.

Including the soldier who died Monday morning, 37 soldiers from the division have been killed in Iraq, more than any other U.S. military division during the war.

The soldier was killed about 6 a.m. in the Mansur area of Baghdad when multiple rocket-propelled grenades hit the convoy in which he was traveling, said a U.S. military spokeswoman. Six others were wounded, she added.

Including the latest death, 81 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since President Bush announced an end to major combat operations May 1. Of those, 33 have been killed by hostile fire and 48 were victims of nonhostile fire or accidents.

In a separate incident Monday, an apparent grenade attack destroyed a car outside the Baghdad headquarters of the U.S.-led administration in Iraq, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The headquarters compound includes a building where Iraq's newly seated governing council was meeting Monday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Sunday that attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq might rise during the next few weeks because of approaching anniversaries connected with the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to expect this to go on. And there's even speculation that during the month of July, which is an anniversary for a lot of Baathist events, we could see an increase in the number of attacks," Rumsfeld said on NBC's "Meet the Press," referring to Saddam's political faction. (Full story)

Monday marks the anniversary of the 1958 overthrow of Iraqi King Faisal, and Thursday marks the date of the 1968 Baathist Party coup that eventually led to Saddam's rise to power.

U.S. Central Command said Sunday that U.S. forces had launched Operation Ivy Serpent, targeting former Saddam loyalists. Central Command said several members of the former regime had been captured, and that numerous weapons and ammunition caches had been confiscated.

Iraqi council starts work

Meanwhile Monday, the Iraqi governing council began work on selecting a council president and interim ministers for government agencies. Council members also are expected to begin apportioning budgets and appointing Iraq's diplomatic representatives.

The council will also be charged with restoring basic services, a task that has proved daunting to the coalition and led many Iraqis to believe the U.S.-led force intends to colonize rather than liberate.

Formerly exiled Iraqis hold several council seats, and that could be met with skepticism by Iraqis who say the exiles did not suffer under Saddam's rule.

The council is composed of 13 Shiite Muslims, five Sunni Muslims, five Kurds, one Assyrian Christian and one Turkmen. They represent Iraq's seven main political parties, and include three women and prominent tribal leaders.

The council is the first Iraqi governing body that Sunni Muslims -- like those who made up most of Saddam's regime -- do not dominate. Shiites constitute about 60 percent of the country's 24 million people. (List of members)

It was originally to have been an advisory council, but its name was changed after U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, who retains ultimate control over the country, agreed to Iraqi demands for substantive powers.

CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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