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Two U.S. soldiers killed near Ba'qubah

Congressman: Iraqi WMD details 'years away'

Japanese troops measure the perimeter of their base area Thursday in Samawa, southern Iraq.
Japanese troops measure the perimeter of their base area Thursday in Samawa, southern Iraq.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A mortar and rocket attack on a U.S. military base near Ba'qubah on Wednesday night killed two American soldiers and wounded three other soldiers, U.S. military sources said Thursday.

The wounded have been treated and have returned to duty.

In other violence, three Iraqi women were killed by anti-coalition insurgents after the mini-van they were riding in came under fire near Fallujah, U.S. military sources said Thursday.

The attack took place at 8 a.m. Wednesday (12 a.m. ET) as the van carried nine people to work at FOB Ridgeway -- a forward operating base.

Witnesses reported seeing passengers in a red car shoot at the van. Preliminary reports say at least two others may have been wounded in the attack, including the van's driver.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said it could take years before investigators are able to uncover the details of Iraq's unconventional weapons programs under Saddam Hussein.

"Every day is a new day for the intelligence people. I would say that we are probably a couple of years away from getting through all the material and talking to all the people we need to talk to about exactly what was going on," said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Florida.

He said that applied to "not only with the Saddam Hussein regime, but with some of the Taliban and some of the things that have been going on in North Korea, Libya, Iran and other places."

The CIA's Iraq Survey Group under David Kay continues to search for weapons of mass destruction and evidence that Saddam concealed such programs from the international community. The search is expected to continue for another three to six months.

Kay presented a preliminary report to the House Intelligence Committee in October that said the group found no unconventional weapons, but did uncover evidence that Saddam's regime planned to manufacture them.

The Bush administration said last year that the Iraqi threat of weapons of mass destruction was a main reason for its decision to launch a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night to Congress and the American people, President Bush cited the Kay report as support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"Had we failed to act, [Saddam's] weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day," Bush said.

Embarking on the Hajj

In another symbol of freedom in post-Saddam Iraq, many more citizens in the war-wracked nation will perform the sacred Muslim Hajj this year. (The pilgrimage)

Muslims across the globe make the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, where they worship at Islam's holiest sites. The five-day ritual journey -- which every adult Muslim must take at least once during their lifetime if possible -- begins January 31. (Key Hajj facts) (Pillars of Islam)

During Saddam's reign, participation was greatly restricted. But recently, the Iraqi Governing Council and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to allow 30,000 Iraqis to participate, an Iraqi government official said.

Participants were chosen in a public lottery from among more than 500,000 who applied. Last year, 14,000 Iraqis performed the Hajj; the year before, 8,000 went on the holy journey.

In Kuwait, officials said 6,500 Iraqis went across the Iraqi border into Kuwait at Basra Tuesday night. They headed straight to the airport in Kuwait City and boarded planes.

When they return home, officials in Kuwait will set up a special tent city for them in which they will wait for buses heading back to Iraq. Red Crescent workers will be there to provide support.

U.S. Central Command said Task Force "All American" soldiers and Iraqi security forces are helping "facilitate the safe travel of the Hajj pilgrims" and noted that more than 2,400 Iraqi pilgrims over the past few days have crossed the Iraqi border at Ar Ar into Saudi Arabia.

"Iraqi border guards and customs agents are operating the Ar Ar border crossing and managing traffic into Saudi Arabia," Central Command said.

"Iraqi Civil Defense Corps troops have been actively involved in the security of the routes and rest areas with additional support from Red Crescent volunteers, who have been integral in providing support for the travelers."


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