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Rumsfeld wants Iraqi security review

U.S. commander says Iraq's insurgents weaker

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered a review of the security situation in Iraq amid concerns over the elections scheduled for January 30.

Rumsfeld asked a retired four-star general to conduct the review, a senior Pentagon official said.

With the elections just weeks away, violence in some regions of Iraq has become more intense.

Attacks have claimed the lives of Baghdad's provincial governor; the security chief for Iraq's Independent Election Commission in Diyala province; the deputy director for the Iraqi Islamic Party in the northern city of Mosul; U.S. soldiers and scores of Iraqi police and civilians.

On Friday, a group of insurgents attacked multinational soldiers as they searched areas suspected of hiding weapons caches, according to a 1st Infantry Division spokesman in Baquba.

More than 30 suspected insurgents were arrested, one was killed and two were injured.

On Thursday, a roadside bomb struck a U.S. armored personnel carrier in northwestern Baghdad, killing all seven American soldiers inside, U.S. military officials said.

The soldiers were part of Task Force Baghdad, composed largely of troops from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division. The attack occurred at about 6 p.m. (10 a.m. ET), according to a statement from the U.S. military in Baghdad.

The blast flipped the 50,000-plus-pound Bradley fighting vehicle upside down and into a ditch, said Lt. Col. James Hutton, a 1st Cavalry spokesman. Rescue efforts were hampered by flames and secondary explosions, he said.

The soldiers' identities were not immediately released.

Earlier in the day, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq called attacks on Iraqi police and political figures "desperate efforts" at intimidation by insurgents hoping to stall the elections.

Despite those attacks, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz maintained the enemy is weaker and does not enjoy support among Iraqis.

"It is not a popular insurgency," Metz said. "The tools that they are using -- murder, torture, kidnapping indiscriminately children, women -- those are tools of someone who is not popularly supported."

Iraqi voters are expected to choose a 275-member transitional national assembly. That body will put together a permanent constitution that will go before voters in a referendum. If the law is approved, the plan calls for elections for a permanent government.

President Bush said Friday the elections will be a "historic moment in the history of Iraq" and condemned those he said are trying to stop democracy.

Other developments

  • The U.S. military is investigating an explosion early Friday that shut down an oil pipeline a few miles north of Tikrit, a military spokesman said. The explosion took place about 6 miles (10 km) north of the hometown of Saddam Hussein. The fire was still burning hours later. A spokesman for the Army's 1st Infantry Division said sabotage is suspected, but no suspects have been arrested.
  • A U.S. Marine was killed in action Thursday while conducting "security and stability operations" in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. With the death, 1,342 U.S. forces have been killed in the Iraq war.

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