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Former Iraqi generals offer to help in Fallujah

Ten U.S. troops killed elsewhere in the country

Watch CNN for ongoing updates on the situation in Fallujah, plus CNN correspondents' reports from Baghdad, the Pentagon and the White House.
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Pool reporter Karl Penhaul shows scenes from Wednesday's fighting in Fallujah.

Pool reporter Karl Penhaul describes the nighttime shelling in Fallujah.

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FALLUJAH, Iraq (CNN) -- A group of former Iraqi generals offered Thursday to build an Iraqi security force that would move into Fallujah, allowing U.S. Marines to pull back from the front lines, military officials said.

Such a move could help end the siege in the city, the officials said.

There were no direct negotiations between the U.S. military and Iraqi insurgents, but military officials believe Iraqi forces may have better luck persuading the insurgents to lay down their arms.

The generals said they would put together a force of 600 to 1,000 men, many of them from the Iraqi police forces or the former Iraqi army, the officials said.

U.S. military officials said they were cautiously optimistic the generals could build the kind of force they described.

"These people are good-hearted Iraqis who've been on the sidelines in this conflict and they think they can help with a solution," said a military official in Fallujah.

"Elements of the Iraqi military did a lot of bad things under Saddam Hussein. But not every member of the Iraqi army was a blackhearted individual. The Iraqi military was a very respected institution in Iraq," he said.

"We're not going to give up anything in this process," he said. "We're going to transition forces."

More than a dozen bombs

Meanwhile, fighting continued between troops and insurgents in the city.

Navy officials at the Pentagon said three bombs were dropped by F-18s flying off the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Persian Gulf. The number of planes and the size or type of the bombs was not disclosed.

On Wednesday, the Navy launched 13 laser-guided bombs at targets in the city, the Navy officials said.

Marines began an offensive in Fallujah after numerous attacks on U.S. forces and others, including the killing and mutilation of four American security contractors March 31.

Large numbers of U.S. troops and Iraqis have been killed in flare-ups since.

Before the uptick in violence, 63 percent of Iraqis surveyed said they were convinced Iraq would be better off in five years. But a poll released Thursday found more than half of those Iraqis had an unfavorable view of both the United States and Iraq. (Full story)

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, traveling Thursday in Berlin, addressed another political effort to stem the violence in Fallujah.

"We are hoping that the tribal sheikhs who have come to help with this situation will be able to talk to the people inside the town and say, 'Let's end this, let's bring this to a conclusion.' " Powell said.

"Because we want to help the people of Fallujah. We want peace in Fallujah, not war in Fallujah. And we won't have to take this to a military climax."

U.S. troops, Iraqi police attacked

Elsewhere in Iraq, 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks Thursday.

April has been the deadliest month for the United States since the war began.

A total of 126 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile incidents this month. That is compared to the 109 killed in hostile action during the six weeks of declared major combat last year.

Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of President Bush's declaration that major combat was over.

Eight soldiers were killed and four wounded in a car bomb attack in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, a military spokesman said.

A rocket-propelled grenade attack killed a 1st Cavalry Division soldier in eastern Baghdad, a coalition spokesman said.

Another U.S. soldier died in an attack in Baqubah, north of Baghdad, according to military officials.

With the deaths, 737 U.S. troops have been killed in the Iraq war -- 533 in hostile action, 204 in nonhostile incidents, according to U.S. military figures.

The coalition said seven Iraqi police and one civilian were killed in a series of attacks Wednesday in the northern city of Mosul.

Two police were shot in front of their homes, according to a statement from the Task Force Olympia, which carries out coalition operations in the area.

A drive-by shooting killed an Iraqi policeman standing guard at the residence of the Mosul police chief and wounded another policeman. The five police who pursued the assailants were ambushed and killed, the statement said.

The same assailants tried to steal a car and shot the driver after he refused to hand over the keys, the statement said. The driver died Thursday.

In the southern city of Basra, a South African civilian was attacked and killed by unknown assailants.

Operations around Najaf

U.S. forces have begun new operations in the southern city of Najaf, where radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has holed up at holy sites with many of his most vehement supporters.

Spanish troops recently withdrew from the area after their new prime minister pulled them out of the country, and soldiers the U.S. 1st Armored Division, who were expecting to be sent home, were redeployed to replace them.

Al-Sadr's militia, responsible for numerous attacks against U.S. troops, is in control of the holy shrines.

On Thursday, insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms at U.S. troops at two checkpoints between Najaf and Kufa.

CNN correspondent Jane Arraf witnessed an attack at one checkpoint and reported an Abrams tank returned fire. One soldier was lightly wounded.

Given the widespread violence, many have questioned whether Iraq will be prepared for sovereignty by June 30, when the United States plans to hand control over the country to an Iraqi interim authority.

Powell insisted Thursday that the United States is committed to the date.

He said he is confident the interim government will "realize that security has to be provided by coalition forces. And those coalition forces have to be under the command of an American commander."

CNN's Jane Arraf, Ben Wedeman and U.S. television networks pool reporter Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

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