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New operation targets Saddam loyalists

U.S. soldier killed in explosion north of Baghdad

A British soldier playfully arm-wrestles an Iraqi man through the gates of the British office Monday in Baghdad.
A British soldier playfully arm-wrestles an Iraqi man through the gates of the British office Monday in Baghdad.

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CNN's Harris Whitbeck on a new U.S. operation in Iraq and the easing of tensions in Basra. (August 11)
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Basra residents protest power outages with street demonstrations and gunfire.
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TIKRIT, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military Monday launched a major operation in Iraq against fugitive members of Saddam Hussein's regime, a spokesman said. The assault came a day after another U.S. soldier died in hostile action.

Operation Ivy Lightning is the largest coalition deployment in the region since President Bush declared the end of major combat in the Iraq war on May 1, according to Col. Bill MacDonald, a U.S. military spokesman.

The operation aims to capture former regime members who have fled recent U.S. raids in Tikrit, Balad and Ba'qubah, he said. It is centered around 70 miles (112 kilometers) east of Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral homeland.

Ivy Lightning got under way with raids in the towns of Ain Lalin and Quara Tapa, MacDonald said. He said the raids, headed by the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Combat Unit, involved attack helicopters, heavy armor and mechanized infantry.

The Iraqis targeted are believed to be planning additional attacks on U.S. troops, said MacDonald, who also reported that a 4th Infantry Division soldier was killed and two others wounded Sunday night in an attack unrelated to Ivy Lightning.

The attack occurred when an improvised explosive device detonated as the three soldiers approached an Iraqi police station in Ba'qubah, a town north of Baghdad.

The death increased the number of U.S. soldiers killed in hostile action to 57 since May 1.

In addition, three soldiers from the 173 Airborne Brigade -- based in the northern city of Kirkuk -- were wounded when they came under attack overnight by rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosives near al-Shumayt.

Tensions ease in Basra

A British military official said Monday that calm had returned to Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, following two days of protests over electricity outages during a summer heat wave.

British and other coalition forces were working to keep the southern port city's electric grid energized and to maintain fuel supplies at gasoline stations, the military said. Basra is under British supervision.

Lt. Cmdr. Richard Walters, a British military spokesman, said no protests had been reported and that the coalition provided electricity to most of the city overnight, which he said would help calm Iraqi tempers.

During a second consecutive day of protests Sunday, British troops took gunfire from an angry mob and returned it, according to a British military spokesman. No British injuries from the gunfire were reported, but the British press office in Basra said three soldiers were injured by rock-throwing crowds.

In other developments:

• At a news conference Monday, U.S. military spokesman Col. Guy Shields was asked about a report by The Associated Press quoting a woman who said U.S. forces killed her husband and three of her four children Friday as they drove through a northern Baghdad suburb. Two other men reportedly were killed Friday at U.S. checkpoints, too. Shields acknowledged the report and that U.S. soldiers were involved, but he refused to discuss details because the incident is under investigation. Shields did say that the coalition "has gone to great strides ... trying to minimize civilian casualties."

• The leader of Iraq's governing council said Monday the group had chosen a special committee to look at the mechanics of drafting a new constitution, including options. Ibrahim al Jafari also said the council now has criteria for appointing government ministers. Once a constitution is in place, there can be national elections. The council, which began meeting in July, is charged with expediting the transition of power from the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority to Iraqis.

CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf and producer Ayman Mohyeldin contributed to this report.

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