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U.S., Iraqis raid cleric's Najaf office

Al-Sadr aides arrested, weapons confiscated


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President Bush is expected to talk about Iraq in U.N. speech.

Patty Hensley pleads for the release of her husband, Jack.

CNN's Jane Arraf reports on the continuing violence.
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NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces and Iraqi police raided the office of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the south-central city of Najaf on Tuesday, arresting several aides and confiscating thousands of weapons, Najaf's governor said.

Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi said the raid took place next to the Imam Ali Mosque -- the Shiite shrine that was the site of a three-week standoff between U.S. troops and militia loyal to al-Sadr in August. A peace deal was negotiated with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that would grant al-Sadr his freedom from murder charges in a bid to secure peace in war-torn Najaf.

Arrested Tuesday were al-Sadr aides Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaybani and Sayyid Hussam al-Hassani as well as some of the cleric's bodyguards.

Meanwhile, near Baquba, north of Baghdad, a civilian was killed and 10 other people wounded in two roadside bombings targeting Iraqi security forces, an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Members of the Iraqi police force and national guard were among the casualties, the spokesman said.

In one attack, an improvised explosive device detonated Tuesday near a police patrol, killing a civilian and wounding six other people, including two Iraqi police.

On Monday night, a roadside bomb exploded as an Iraqi national guard vehicle passed, wounding three guardsmen and a civilian.

Two kidnapped Westerners are facing threats of death a day after a fellow hostage was beheaded.

The wife of U.S. hostage Jack Hensley pleaded a second time for his captors to open talks after Islamic militants -- demanding the release of female prisoners in Iraq -- beheaded fellow American captive Eugene Armstrong.

The family of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, who was seized along with the two Americans from their Baghdad residence last week, urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet the demands of his kidnappers and save his life. (Full story)

U.S. officials said they are not holding any women in prisons in Iraq. The United States is holding two Iraqi women in an undisclosed location, an American official said, describing both as former high-level members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

With violence intensifying in Iraq, President Bush was set to deliver a speech Tuesday at U.N. headquarters in New York and is expected to offer additional proposals on increasing stability in the country. (Full story)

Before his address, Bush will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- who last week called the U.S. invasion of Iraq "illegal."

Bush also has been under increasing fire from his Democratic presidential opponent, Sen. John Kerry, over the war in Iraq.

Other developments

  • A U.S. soldier was killed Monday afternoon when insurgents attacked his patrol near Ash Sharqat, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of the northern city of Kirkuk, the U.S. military said. The U.S. death toll in the Iraq war is 1,035, according to the military.
  • Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi warned Monday that terrorists were flooding into his country from across the Muslim world. But former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told The Times of London: "There were no international terrorists in Iraq until we went in. It was we who gave the perfect conditions in which al Qaeda could thrive." (Full story)
  • A senior U.S. defense official said the United States recently approached Syria and stressed the country's need to secure the border with Iraq. State Department and Pentagon officials broached the topic during a recent visit to Syria, the official said. The Syrians responded by agreeing with the U.S. concern, the official said, but it is unclear yet any action will be taken. (Full story)
  • U.S. airstrikes Monday hit a bulldozer and a dump truck full of sand at a "municipality project" in western Falluja, according to witnesses. The strikes killed three people and wounded five others, hospital officials said. U.S. military officials outside the city, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Baghdad, said the American-led multinational forces fired on construction equipment used by insurgents to build "fortified fighting positions."

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