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Six held after U.S. raids in Iraq

Thousands of Shiites mark religious holiday

An Iraqi man is kept under guard after the raids.
An Iraqi man is kept under guard after the raids.

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Saddam Hussein

KARBALA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. troops on Saturday detained six people in three separate raids near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, according to coalition officials.

Those detained were suspected of manufacturing improvised explosive devices and U.S. forces also confiscated AK-47 assault rifles and one shotgun in the raids, coalition sources said.

The raids were conducted early Saturday in the town of Ca'desseeya.

In another development, at least two Iraqis were wounded Saturday in a grenade attack near the Shiite city of Karbala, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, according to police sources.

Two grenades were thrown at the Iraqis in the village of al-Muhenawia, south of Karbala, which is under the control of the Bulgarian military.

In Karbala on Saturday, thousands of Iraqi Shiites flooded the streets to mark the birthday of the historic 12th Imam -- and to demonstrate in favor of a Shiite cleric's call for the formation of an Islamic state in Iraq.

The city is the burial place of Imam al-Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who died in battle outside Karbala. The 12th Imam was born in 868 and is considered, by Shiites, to be still living, waiting to reappear before the Day of Judgment.

Muqtada al-Sadr said during his Friday sermon in nearby Kufa that he intended to use the birthday, beginning at sundown Saturday, to launch his government and called for "peaceful demonstrations" by those who agree. Thousands of his supporters walked the distance to Karbala for the demonstration.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority or the coalition-appointed Iraq Governing Council.

New U.S. public relations effort

The Bush administration launched an offensive this week to justify the war in Iraq and curb criticism of it.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the move was an effort to reach out to the American people because "it was important to remind" them that the U.S.-led war "was fully justified."

"The president wanted the American people to understand clearly that there are no second thoughts on our part," he told reporters at the State Department.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice all have given speeches this week as part of a new public relations effort aimed at curbing the growing criticism of U.S. actions in Iraq. (White House tries new PR effort)

Powell wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post on Tuesday that discussed the interim report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq being led by Washington's chief weapons inspector, David Kay. (Kay: Iraq team making significant finds)

Powell said his article "made the case clearly, I think, that Iraq was in material breach of its obligations [to disarm itself of banned weapons]."

Despite the speeches and article, Powell said he would not characterize the effort as being on "the level of a mammoth new campaign."

Earlier Friday, Cheney told the conservative Heritage Foundation that terrorists are "doing everything they can" to get weapons of mass destruction that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans "in a single day of horror."

The speech defended the U.S.-led war in Iraq as part of the Bush administration's efforts to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States. The arguments over the administration's handling of Iraq are "helping to frame the most important debate of the post-9/11 era," Cheney said.

"Some claim we should not have acted because the threat from [deposed Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein was not imminent," Cheney said. "Terrorist enemies of our country hope to strike us with the most lethal weapons known to man, and it would be reckless in the extreme to rule out action and save our worries until the day they strike."

He added, "As long as George W. Bush is president of the United States, this country will not permit gathering threats to become certain tragedies." (Bush marks Saddam's fall)

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