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3 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq
Chicago Tribune
February 26, 2005

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded nine others while on a patrol north of Baghdad on Friday, according to the military, as the Iraqi government announced the arrest earlier this month of two men linked to insurgent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In political developments, the leading candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, who is affiliated with a Shiite religious party, further solidified his position by visiting the country's most influential cleric and claiming his blessing. Jaafari, leader of the conservative Islamic Dawa party, was nominated by the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which received the most votes in the election.

"Ayatollah al-Sistani blessed the decision taken by the alliance about the prime minister post. He respects and supports what the alliance has decided," Jaafari said before television cameras assembled outside after a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf. The United Iraqi Alliance won a majority of seats in the 275-member National Assembly in Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. But the prime minister, who functions as head of government, must be nominated by a presidential council that can be selected only by a two-thirds vote of parliament.

The Shiite alliance is trying to fend off attempts by the current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to pick off support from some of its members as the alliance courts representatives of the country's Kurdish minority to achieve the necessary two-thirds support.

The three U.S. soldiers were killed early in the afternoon in an attack in Tarmiyah, about 20 miles north of the capital, raising the U.S. military death toll in Iraq to at least 1,489, according to an Associated Press count since the war began in March 2003.

"There was a group of American soldiers walking in the road while around five Humvees were parking behind them," Waleed Nahed, 35, who lives in the area, told AP.

"I heard a very loud explosion and I saw bodies flying," Nahed said. Other witnesses said they saw about a dozen blood-spattered U.S. soldiers lying on the ground after the blast.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced that a Feb. 20 raid in Anah, about 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, led to the arrest of Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, also known as Abu Qutaybah. A government statement described him as a "key lieutenant" for the Zarqawi network responsible for "arranging safe houses and transportation as well as passing packages and funds to al-Zarqawi."

The statement said the raid also resulted in the arrest of a man who sometimes worked as al-Zarqawi's driver, Ahmad Khalid Marad Ismail al-Rawi, also known as Abu Uthman.

Elsewhere, a Polish soldier was killed Friday and four more injured when an armored vehicle collided with an Iraqi bus near Diwaniyah, about 100 miles southeast of the capital, the U.S. military said.

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Copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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