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Beheaded body found in northern Iraq

U.S. forces kill 25 insurgents in Sunni Triangle town


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Police found a decapitated body Thursday in the Tigris River, an Iraqi official said.

The body was discovered in Beiji, 112 miles (180 kilometers) north of Baghdad, said Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

Adnan would not confirm the identity of the body but said it was a foreigner's.

Another body, found last week in the same river, was identified Thursday as one of two Bulgarian truck drivers kidnapped by militants in Iraq, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

The body of Geori Lazov, 30, was identified through fingerprints. Lazov's body -- decapitated and dressed in orange clothing -- was retrieved from the Tigris on July 15.

The day before, the Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera said it received a videotape showing one of the two Bulgarians had been beheaded. Al-Jazeera said the Unification and Jihad group claimed responsibility for the killing.

The group, which claimed loyalty to insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also took responsibility for beheading U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg and South Korean translator Kim Sun-il.

Lazov and Ivailo Kepov, 32, were driving trucks delivering cars to the northern city of Mosul when they were abducted June 27.

Also Thursday, a new video of seven foreigners being held in Iraq was released as Kenya, Egypt, India and the hostages' Kuwaiti employer worked to secure their release. (Full story)

The hostages are truck drivers for Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport. A company spokesman said, "We are doing everything we can to secure the safe return of our drivers."

Three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian each identified himself on the latest video, obtained in Baghdad.

Arabic-language network Al-Arabiya on Wednesday showed footage of six hostages standing behind three seated, masked gunmen. In the report, a spokesman for the militant group, which calls itself Black Flags, demanded the men's employers or native countries pull their personnel from Iraq or the captors would behead the hostages, one by one.

Kenya, India and Egypt do not have troops in Iraq. The Kenyan government asked its citizens in Iraq to leave at once, a government spokesman said Thursday.

An Egyptian official in Baghdad said Egyptian and Indian diplomats met Thursday to discuss a strategy on dealing with the hostage crisis. "The Indians are extremely worried," the Egyptian said.

The militants said one hostage will be beheaded every 72 hours if their demands aren't met.

The first deadline is Saturday.

Clashes in Ramadi, Baghdad

American troops, engaged in a daylong firefight, killed 25 insurgents and captured 25 more in the so-called Sunni Triangle town of Ramadi, the U.S. military said.

Fourteen U.S. forces -- 13 Marines and a soldier -- were wounded. Ten of the wounded returned to duty, according to a U.S. military statement.

The military said 17 insurgents were wounded.

Ramadi is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) west of Baghdad near Fallujah. The Sunni Triangle has been a hotbed of anti-U.S. insurgents.

A group of about eight or 10 insurgents detonated a small explosive near a U.S. Marine convoy around 3 p.m. Wednesday and then opened fire on the forces with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Marines returned fire, which led to the ensuing battle, involving an estimated 75 to 100 "anti-Iraqi forces," according to the U.S. military statement.

In central Baghdad, Iraqi forces arrested 270 suspects in a raid that turned into a street battle along Haifa Street, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Thursday.

Those arrested included alleged insurgents and non-Iraqi Arabs, said Sabbah Kadhim, an Interior Ministry senior adviser. A large number of weapons were confiscated, Kadhim said.

The raid was carried out by the Iraqi National Guard, Iraqi police and Interior Ministry intelligence officials after weeks of planning, he said.

Residents reported heavy fighting, including small-arms fire and mortars, and saw U.S. military vehicles. Witnesses said helicopters and fighter jets also were involved.

An Iraqi police spokesman said the fighting began as Iraqi forces were conducting late-night raids on houses and apartments in the Saddamiat Al-Kahrk district. Haifa Street has been the scene of smaller raids and skirmishes in recent weeks.

Sa'ad al-Amili of the Iraqi Ministry of Health said five Iraqis were wounded during the fighting, which lasted into late morning.

Kadhim said much of the information that led to the raid came from residents.

In Salahuddin province, seven Iraqis were killed and eight wounded late Wednesday in clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces, Iraqi Minister of Health Sa'a Al-Amili said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army reported Thursday that two U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in a mortar attack on their forward operating base in Iskandariah, south of Baghdad.

With the deaths, 903 U.S. forces have been killed in the Iraq war -- 669 in combat and 234 in noncombat incidents.

Other developments

  • President Bush on Wednesday authorized the resumption of arms sales to Iraq, a move that will "strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace," a White House memorandum said. Citing the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Control Export Act, Bush authorized Secretary of State Colin Powell to report the finding to Congress that the furnishing of "defense articles and services to Iraq" could resume.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday that the United States has no plans to extend the tours of National Guard soldiers posted in Iraq past their current two-year terms. "However, never say never. We are at war," Rumsfeld cautioned at an afternoon news conference at the Pentagon.
  • CNN's Gladys Njoroge contributed to this report.


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