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Iraq Transition

Marines: 40 insurgents killed

Strikes come after two bloody days of insurgent attacks

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Marine airstrikes in western Iraq killed about 40 insurgents Saturday, the Marines said.

The strikes come as insurgents kept up their lethal attacks of the past two days, killing 19 Iraqis, including 13 civilians and six security officers on Saturday alone.

The Marines described the "seven precision-guided airstrikes," saying they lasted from shortly before noon to 4 p.m., with "all targets demolished."

The Marines said large groups of insurgents were "armed with AK-47 assault rifles, medium machine guns and RPGs" on the outskirts of Karabila in Anbar province.

They had been stopping vehicles at gunpoint and threatening Iraqi civilians attempting to travel through their checkpoint, Marines said.

The Marines' attack against the insurgent compound and surrounding area involved jets and attack helicopters from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marines said. They were assigned to Regimental Combat Team-2.

The statement said no Marines were killed, and there were no reports of civilian casualties.

The strikes are part of a stepped-up campaign against insurgents by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and other parts of the country.

Interior Minister Baqir Jabbur credited the crackdown in Baghdad for a decrease in the number of terrorist attacks.

"The number of car bombs have decreased. Before the operation, there were about 12 to 14 car bombs [daily] in Baghdad," Jabbur said. Now we don't have more than one or two car bombs a day."

The deadliest insurgent assault Saturday was on a minibus carrying Iraqi construction workers who worked on projects at U.S. and Iraqi bases.

Ten people died, three others were wounded, in the morning attack south of Baghdad. Gunmen riding in two cars opened fire on the vehicle, as it traveled between Latifiya and Yusufiya in northern Babil province. The region's persistent lawlessness has earned it an ominous moniker -- "The Triangle of Death."

An hour later, a suicide bomber dressed as a commando stood among the Iraqi police Wolf Brigade commandos, who had gathered for roll call, and detonated his explosive vest at the brigade's headquarters about 8 a.m. (12 a.m. ET), Iraqi police said. The blast killed three police commandos and wounded 17, police said.

Jabbur said "the aim was to assassinate the commander of the Wolf Brigade, but the suicide bomber failed to reach his aim, and he blew himself up. And this is the nature of the fight between us and the terrorists."

About the same time, Iraqi police found three men shot in the al-Dora district of southern Baghdad Saturday. Two men were dead when police found them in a canal under a footbridge. The third died a short time later in a hospital, police said.

Two of the dead were brothers, Oil Ministry employee Sadd Kalaf and Mohammed Kalaf, a journalist with the al-Majid newspaper, police said.

All were blindfolded with their hands bound and appeared to have been tortured before being shot in the head, police said.

Then at midday in west-central Baghdad, rebels opened fire on a police convoy near the old al-Mouthana airport and killed three officers, police said.

Later in the afternoon, a suicide car bomb went off in the vicinity of the Slovak Embassy in Baghdad and wounded four people, a police source said.

It is not known if the embassy was the target of the blast because there are other political, diplomatic and government offices in the same vicinity.

Police identified the wounded as three civilians and a guard for the Slovak Embassy.

The violence came less than 12 hours after a bomb exploded on a busy street in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Shula, on Friday around 10 p.m. The bomb killed 10 Iraqi civilians and wounded 27 others, Iraqi security forces said.

Marines killed

Two Marines were killed Friday when a roadside bomb exploded during a combat operation near Saqlawiyah, the U.S. military said.

Their deaths bring the U.S. troop death toll in Iraq to 1,694.

The Marines were assigned to Regimental Combat Team-8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Other developments

  • U.S. and Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq seized four suspected insurgents and two weapons caches Saturday, the U.S. military said. One of the suspects was handed over by "local sheiks," the second such reported instance by the military.
  • At least 17 bodies in civilian clothes were found scattered near a town close to the Syrian border that is considered an insurgent hotbed, with 11 shot in the head and another beheaded, witnesses said Friday. The 11 had their hands tied behind their backs, according to the witnesses. (Full story)
  • Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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