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American among 6 kidnapped in Baghdad

Two Iraqi officials assassinated
A security guard inspects the car of a deputy governor of Baghdad, who was assassinated Monday.
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U.S. forces prepare for an assault on Falluja.

At least eight U.S. Marines die west of Baghdad.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two senior Iraqi government officials were gunned down in separate attacks Monday, while four Iraqis, an American and a Sri Lankan were kidnapped after a gun battle near their office, police have reported.

The latest kidnapping was reported Monday evening in the Al-Mansour district in west-central Baghdad, said Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Those taken captive included four Iraqis, an American and a Sri Lankan working for a Saudi automotive service company, SASCO.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan said one of the kidnappers and a bodyguard were killed in a gun battle during the kidnapping, which occurred about 5:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m. ET).

Their seizure was the latest in a long series of kidnappings of international workers in Iraq amid a persistent insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. troops and an undetermined number of Iraqis, estimated to number in the thousands.

A U.S. Marine was killed and four others wounded by a roadside bomb Sunday in Ramadi, the capital of western Iraq's sprawling Al-Anbar province, the military reported Monday.

The city has been an insurgent stronghold in the restive Sunni Triangle region.

The latest American fatality brings the total U.S. death toll since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq to 1,121.

Meanwhile, Baghdad's deputy governor, Hatem Kamel Abdul Fatah, was shot to death on his way to work Monday morning, Rahman said.

Two of Fatah's bodyguards were wounded in the attack, Rahman said.

And in Baquba, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital, provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Waleed Khalid Abdul-Salam said gunmen in a gray Opel killed an Interior Ministry official, Capt. Aisar Khalil Abdul Aziz, near the al-Maffraq traffic circle in western Baquba.

The area around the circle has seen frequent attacks against Iraqi government and U.S.-backed coalition personnel.

Insurgents armed with machine guns and mortars battled police at a downtown Baghdad checkpoint Monday, and two police officers died in a car bombing Monday evening.

The bomb detonated on the Mohammed Al-Qassim highway at 8 p.m. Monday.

An Interior Ministry spokesman told CNN the bomb may have detonated before the bombers reached their intended target, since the only people in the street were the officers who died in the attack.

No casualties were reported in the two-hour firefight between police and insurgents on Baghdad's Haifa Street, which took place after a series of raids on houses in the area by Iraqi National Guard personnel, U.S. troops, and police, Iraqi police Lt. Col. Riyadh Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said the forces had detained an unspecified number of insurgents and found mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and conventional grenades in the ongoing operation.

The violence comes a day after interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said he was getting closer to authorizing major military action against insurgents in Falluja, west of Baghdad, following the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces in six months.

U.S.-led coalition forces have not been able to gain control of the "Sunni Triangle" city in the 18 months since they invaded Iraq.

"We have now entered the final phase of attempts to solve Falluja without a major military confrontation," Allawi said.

"I hope we can achieve this, but if we cannot, I have no choice but to secure a military solution. I will do so with a heavy heart, for even with the most careful plan, there will be some loss of innocent lives."

Allawi, a former exile once backed by the CIA, said that "the window of such peaceful settlement is closing" for the insurgents.

The Iraqi leader said he delivered the same message Saturday in his meeting with religious and tribal leaders from Falluja and determined that "a sense of national unity is growing."

Jets and helicopters have pounded Falluja for weeks to prepare for a possible military operation aimed at ending violence by anti-American and anti-Iraqi government insurgents.

The strategy is part of an overall U.S. and Iraqi interim government goal to improve stability in the nation before national elections set for January.

Falluja has been in insurgent hands since April, when Marines were ordered to withdraw from the city's perimeter. Responsibility for the city was given to a squad of former Iraqi soldiers from the city and the police force.

The city remains home to a terror network run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials have said. Al-Zarqawi is believed to have masterminded the beheading of American and British hostages as well as attacks on U.N. and Red Cross targets in Iraq.

Other developments

  • On Monday, a representative of the Arab-language TV network Al-Arabiya said that five of its Iraqi employees were killed in a car bombing outside its offices over the weekend. The Dubai-based network said Saturday it received an official statement from a little-known Iraqi militant group, the Twentieth Brigades, denying reports that it attacked the office. But earlier, an Islamist Web site published a statement in which the group allegedly took responsibility for Saturday's attack.
  • The body of a Japanese man beheaded by his Iraqi captors is being returned to Tokyo. Shosei Koda was found Saturday in Baghdad wrapped in an American flag after Japan refused hostage-takers' demands to pull troops from Iraq. (Full story)
  • CNN's Karl Penhaul, Kianne Sadeq, Kevin Flower and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report

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