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Iraq Transition

Iraqi military prepares largest offensive

May recorded 140 car bombings, the highest number ever

An Iraqi soldier stops a motorist Sunday at a checkpoint in southwest Baghdad.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A joint Iraqi-U.S. offensive against rebels in greater Baghdad is being readied after insurgents killed at least 19 people and wounded 44 in attacks around the country, officials said.

The coming offensive, Operation Lightning, will be the largest undertaking to date for the new Iraqi military.

It will involve some 40,000 troops and police -- backed by about 10,000 Americans -- who are deploying around the capital in an attempt to halt attacks that have left hundreds dead in the past month.

Iraqi forces erected road checkpoints throughout Baghdad on Sunday. The operation also will employ cordons and raids against suspected insurgents, officials said.

In Washington, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it will help show how far the Iraqi military has come, and how far it has to go.

"What we want to have happen in Iraq is to have Iraqi security forces take charge of their own security. And every day, they're more and more able to do that," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We've got about 100 Iraqi force battalions that are equipped and trained," Myers said.

"About 25 percent of them can do independent operations or operations with little help from coalition forces, but every week that number changes and goes up."

According to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Baghdad, more than 140 car bombings occurred in May, beating the old record of 135 in April. He also said the nearly 60 suicide bombings in May were down from 69 in April.

The official, who spoke at a press briefing on condition of anonymity, insisted the insurgency is not growing stronger, and Myers said on another talk show Sunday that it is failing.

"They attacked Iraqi security forces, trying to keep people from signing up to defend their country. ... We have more recruits than we can actually, than the Iraqis can handle," Myers said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Relentless attacks

Three people were killed Sunday and 12 were wounded after insurgents driving two cars opened fire on an Iraqi police patrol in the al-Amiriya neighborhood of western Baghdad, police said.

The police called for support and when it arrived, the insurgents began attacking with mortar rounds. As the fighting raged, a car bomb exploded. The firefight continued for hours.

In eastern Baghdad near the Iraqi Oil Ministry compound, a suicide car bomb killed two people and wounded six others, police said.

In the al-Madyen region, 20 miles southeast of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber targeted a convoy of Iraqi Interior Ministry commandos Sunday, killing two people, including a commando and a civilian, Iraqi police said.

The attack -- near al-Wardiya village -- wounded eight people, including four commandos and four civilians, police said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad Sunday morning, the bodies of an Iraqi police officer and a translator were found shot to death on a street in the al-Dora district, Baghdad police said.

In the northern Iraq town of Tuz, a car bomb parked near an Iraqi school killed two Iraqi civilians and wounded 16 others Sunday morning, an Iraqi military official said.

A conflicting military statement said one Iraqi -- not two -- was killed. Tuz is about 45 miles south of Kirkuk.

In the northern city of Mosul, a bomb killed eight Iraqi civilians Sunday morning, including children, the U.S. military said. Another two people were wounded in a second attack in Mosul, according to the military.

A roadside bomb hit a British military convoy Sunday morning in southern Iraq, killing one British soldier and damaging one vehicle, according to the British Ministry of Defense and Iraqi police. (Full story)

Other developments

  • Published letters reportedly written in jail by former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz plead for international intervention and say he has been unjustly accused and denied access to personal mail. (Full story)
  • Myers said Sunday that military officials "tend to believe" that wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been wounded. (Full story)
  • A U.S. soldier died last week from wounds sustained three weeks earlier, the U.S. military said Sunday in a statement. Sgt. First Class Randy Collins with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was wounded May 4 by a mortar attack near Mosul, according to the statement.
  • A U.S. Marine died Saturday when the vehicle in which he was riding was struck by a roadside bomb in western Iraq, the U.S. military said. The death brought the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 1,656, according to U.S. military reports. The Marine was assigned to 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward), 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), the military said.
  • CNN's Ryan Chilcote, Arwa Damon, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammad Tawfeeq in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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