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Iraq's 'Sunni Triangle' scene of new deadly attacks

Deaths of 2 U.S. soldiers among casualties in restive region

The mother and daughter of a woman killed near Fallujah grieve at her gravesite in Baghdad on Thursday.
The mother and daughter of a woman killed near Fallujah grieve at her gravesite in Baghdad on Thursday.

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Three deadly attacks in Iraq's 'Sunni Triangle' region.
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CNN's Karl Penhaul on the U.S. hunt for insurgents in Iraq's 'Sunni Triangle.'
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgents in Iraq's volatile "Sunni Triangle" launched three deadly attacks during a 24-hour period, killing two U.S. soldiers, three Iraqi police officers and four civilians.

The Sunni Triangle is Iraq's most volatile region, an area north and west of Baghdad that is a hotbed of opposition to the U.S.-led coalition and scene of political instability.

In the most recent attack, three Iraqi police officers and a civilian were killed Thursday at a highway checkpoint between the central cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, an Iraq police official said.

Suspected insurgents in two pickups with medium to heavy machine guns opened fire on the police checkpoint, said Maj. Walid Jalal, an official with the Iraqi highway patrol force based in Fallujah.

A grenade was thrown at a police vehicle parked at the checkpoint, Jalal said. Another police officer was wounded in the attack, he said.

In other violence, a mortar and rocket attack on a U.S. military base north of Baghdad killed two American soldiers and wounded four others Wednesday night, U.S. military sources said Thursday.

Three of the wounded received treatment and returned to duty. The fourth, who was critically wounded, is hospitalized.

A mortar round directly hit the forward operating base near Baqubah, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division. Aberle said U.S. forces launched a counterattack but the fate of the attackers is unknown.

The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war is 504, with 349 fatalities in hostile circumstances.

Also near Fallujah, anti-coalition insurgents on Wednesday fired on and killed three Iraqi female laundry workers in a minivan, U.S. military sources said Thursday.

The attack took place as the van carried nine people to work at a forward operating base.

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

"This shows a certain type of desperation, if not coldheartedness," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, discussing the workers' deaths, " ... that anti-coalition elements would have the audacity and temerity to go attack women as they were going to work to provide for their families."

WMD details likely 'years away'

The chairman of the U.S. 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," said U.S. Rep. Porter Goss, R-Florida. "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."

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.

Last year, the Bush administration said the threat of weapons of mass destruction was a key reason in its decision to launch an invasion of Iraq in March.

Critics of the administration have argued that Iraq did not pose an immediate threat and question why no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

Meanwhile, Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. arms inspector in Iraq, is likely to replace Kay, according to a U.S. official, who said an announcement should come in a few days.

Council member: Compromise possible on elections

A Shiite Muslim member of the Iraqi Governing Council said Thursday that coalition officials are working with a top cleric to solve a dispute on how to select an Iraqi transitional legislature.

A possible compromise could include delaying the political handover process to Iraqis and holding direct elections later this year, said Mowaffak al-Rubaie of the U.S.-appointed council.

Rubaie said Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wants to develop the most feasible electoral process possible. Sistani has been pushing for direct elections instead of the U.S.-backed caucuses for a transitional national assembly before July 1. The United States is to hand over political control to Iraqis by that date.

"Confrontation is not a choice," Rubaie said. "Failure of democracy is not a choice. We have to get this successful. We have to get democracy and elections and ballot boxes in Iraq."

Shiites represent about 60 percent of the Iraqi population, which would likely give them an advantage over groups in direct elections. There have been demonstrations this month in Iraqi cities in support of Sistani's position. (Full story)

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