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Iraq Transition

U.S. deaths in Iraq surpass 1,600

Al-Zarqawi aide captured, says American military

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Iraqi National Assembly approves two key Cabinet positions.

U.S.-trained Iraqi special forces hope to replace coalition troops.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Total U.S. troop casualties in the Iraq war passed 1,600 Sunday, according to a CNN count, when two soldiers were killed near Khaldiya and a third died in Samarra.

All three were killed by roadside bombs, the U.S. military said.

Two soldiers assigned to a Marine combat team were killed during operations near Khaldiya, just east of Ramadi, which is 60 miles west of Baghdad, the Marines said. Officials did not give the time of the incident.

In Samarra, about 75 miles north of the capital, one soldier was killed and another wounded at about 2:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m. ET), the military said.

U.S. forces also said they killed a suspected terrorist and injured another during a patrol in western Iraq.

A day earlier, three Marines and a sailor were killed during a battle with insurgents who were using a Haditha hospital to attack U.S. forces, the military said.

Marines responding to small arms fire near Haditha Dam were attacked by a suicide car bomber who hit a nearby building, officials with the Marines said. The building was destroyed, and the adjacent hospital caught fire.

Marines searching the hospital found that windows had been fortified. "A number of insurgents" were also killed, the Marines said. Haditha is about 150 miles west of Baghdad.

Also Saturday, a makeshift bomb killed a Marine during combat in al-Karma, about 30 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar province.

To date, 1,601 American forces have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. In all, 1,780 coalition forces -- not counting Iraqi forces -- have been killed.

The U.S. death toll passed 1,000 in September 2004. (Full story)

According to news reports compiled by Pat Kniesler of the Web site, more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, police and guardsmen have been killed since U.S.-led troops began working with Iraqis to build a security force under the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003.

Also Sunday, two attacks in northern Iraq left four civilians dead, the U.S. military said.

Three Iraqi civilians were found shot to death outside their vehicle in western Mosul. Another civilian was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army patrol in the eastern part of the city.

Another Iraqi civilian died Saturday in an apparent insurgent attack near the restive city of Tal Afar, the U.S. military said.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war remains unclear. Data compiled by the Web site suggests that between 21,000 and 25,000 civilians have been confirmed killed.

Aide's 'intelligence documents' found

The U.S. military said Sunday that an aide to terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been captured by Iraqi security forces in Baghdad.

U.S. forces identified him as Ammar al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Abbas.

Al-Zubaydi was captured Thursday, the military said. He was responsible for many recent suicide car bombings and an attack on Abu Ghraib prison in April that wounded U.S. troops and detainees at the facility, the military said. (Full story)

The military said al-Zubaydi was responsible for a string of car bombs in the Baghdad area on April 29. On that day, 12 explosions were reported in eight areas of the capital within a matter of hours.

Twenty-three Iraqi security troops died across the city and 31 others were wounded, authorities said. At least one civilian died and dozens more were wounded. (Full story)

Al-Zubaydi is not the same Abu Abbas who masterminded the terrorist hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. That man, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, was captured in Iraq in the early days of the war and died in custody.

Iraqi officials said "intelligence documents" seized at al-Zubaydi's home indicated he was preparing to assassinate a senior government official, who the officials did not identify.

Al-Zubaydi confessed to supporting another suspected al-Zarqawi aide, Abu Omar al-Kurdi, captured in December, Iraqi officials said.

The officials released a statement Sunday saying al-Zubaydi also confessed to stealing 400 rockets and 720 cases of explosives from weaponry warehouses in Yusifiya in 2003.

A U.S. military statement said he told the Iraqis he gave al-Kurdi access to the stolen explosives, which he stockpiled on and near a farm in Yusifiya. Al-Kurdi used them for car bombs, the military said.

Tip leads to capture of 54 insurgents

Another al-Zarqawi associate -- captured April 26 -- helped U.S. and Iraqi forces kill six insurgents Sunday and capture another 54 in western Iraq near the Syrian border, the U.S. military said.

The anti-insurgent operation took place near the Rawa region in the Anbar province north of Qaim, the military said. The region is a base for rebel attacks in Baghdad and Falluja.

Information provided by al-Zarqawi associate Ghassan Muhammad Amin Husayn al-Rawi helped the operation, according to the military.

During the mission, U.S. and Iraqi "forces also destroyed car bombs, bomb-making material and two buildings that contained large weapons caches," the military said.

Before his capture, al-Rawi "facilitated movement and meetings for al-Zarqawi in the Rawa region, facilitated movement of foreign fighters, and was responsible for terrorist activity resulting in the murder of innocent Iraqis," according to Saturday's announcement of his capture by the military.

Word of the raid came a day after U.S. soldiers captured 33 suspected terrorists, including two men described as "high value targets" in the Baghdad area, the U.S. military said.

Iraqi Cabinet jobs filled

The Iraqi National Assembly approved six names Sunday to fill vacant Cabinet positions, including ministers for defense and oil.

Four of the six posts went to Sunni Arabs -- an effort by the Shiite and Kurd-dominated transitional government to give a larger voice to the Sunni minority.

The ministries of defense, industry and human rights are to be headed by Sunnis, and a newly named deputy prime minister is a Sunni.

The defense minister will be Sadun al-Dulaimi, a Sunni. The Oil Ministry will be headed by a Shiite, Ibrahim Bahrululum.

Hashem al-Shibli, a Sunni who was tapped to be the minister of human rights, refused the post, saying he did not believe Cabinet positions should be allocated based on ethnic or religious affiliation.

Last month, transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced all 36 Cabinet positions in the new government -- some of them temporary. The new Cabinet members were sworn in one by one last Tuesday -- altogether 28. (Cabinet list)

The transitional government's main goal is to write a constitution that must be put before voters in a referendum this year.

Other developments

  • CTU Consulting Management said two of its employees were among 22 people killed in a Baghdad suicide bombing on Saturday: Todd James Venetta of White Hall, Arkansas, and Brandon James Thomas of Salt Lake City, Utah. Venetta was a veteran of the U.S. Marines who had previously served as a firefighter and paramedic in Russellville, Arkansas, the company said. Thomas, 27, was scheduled to return to the United States at the end of this month to prepare for deployment in Iraq with his Utah National Guard unit, said his mother, Carol Young. (More on attack)
  • A senior official with Iraq's Transportation Ministry, Zawba' Al-Ma'ini, was assassinated Sunday along with his driver as they left al-Ma'ini's home in Dora, on the northwest outskirts of Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

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