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Mortar attack kills 6 near Baghdad

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    Mortar attack kills 6 near Baghdad http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060903/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes ago BAGHDAD,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3 3:13 AM
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      Mortar attack kills 6 near Baghdad
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060903/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq
      By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes ago

      BAGHDAD, Iraq - A mortar attack east of Baghdad killed six people, including
      two children, as a dispute emerged over transferring control of the armed
      forces from the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi government.

      Several mortars fell on a residential area of al-Maamel in the capital's
      eastern outskirts Saturday night, police said. Six people were killed, and 15
      were wounded, said Rahim Qasim Basim of the al-Sadr General Hospital.
      On Sunday morning, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in eastern
      Baghdad killed two policemen and a civilian and wounded three policemen,
      police Maj. Mahir Hameed Mosa said.

      The mainly Shiite eastern parts of the capital have seen significant violence
      in recent days. The most severe occurred on Thursday night, when a coordinated
      barrage of attacks killed 64 people and wounded 286 within half an hour.

      Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed over the last week, despite a massive
      security operation in the capital involving an extra 12,000 Iraqi and U.S.
      troops targeting some of Baghdad's most problematic neighborhoods.

      The defense ministry has said it will expand the security crackdown to include
      parts of eastern Baghdad.

      Meanwhile, authorities canceled a highly touted ceremony in which the U.S.-led
      coalition was to hand over control of Iraq's armed forces command to the
      Defense Ministry after disagreements emerged over Iraqi forces'
      responsibilities and the coalition's role.

      The ceremony, initially set for Saturday, was postponed to Sunday and then
      canceled altogether.

      It was to have marked the formal transfer of control of Iraq's armed forces to
      the government. The ministry and the country's Joint Headquarters are to
      assume responsibility for the Iraqi Ground Forces Command, the Iraqi Air Force
      and the Iraqi Navy.

      The U.S. has said handing over control of the armed forces to Iraqi
      authorities is a key part of any eventual drawdown of U.S. troops in the
      country.

      "There are issues that are still being worked out," said U.S. spokesman Lt.
      Col. Barry Johnson.

      The issues were centered on "delineating the responsibilities of the joint
      headquarters and the coalition's role in supporting their efforts."

      Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Thursday that he believed Iraqi forces
      would have control of most of the country by the end of the year.

      On Saturday, he met with Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric. Grand
      Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned the prime minister to quell violence or risk
      "other powers" filling the gap.

      In July, al-Sistani was credited with restraining the Shiite community from
      widespread retaliation against minority Sunnis following horrific attacks on
      Shiite civilians.

      "If the government does not do its duty in imposing security and order to the
      people and protecting them, it will give a chance to other powers to do this
      duty and this a very dangerous matter," al-Sistani's office quoted him as
      saying.

      Thirteen Pakistani and Indian Shiite pilgrims and their Iraqi driver were
      ambushed and killed on their way to the holy city of Karbala 50 miles south of
      the capital, police said Saturday - apparently victims of the country's
      continuing sectarian violence.

      Shiite pilgrims are to observe Shaaban, a mid-month religious celebration, on
      Sept. 9.

      Tensions also brewed in the north Saturday, with a leading Sunni politician
      slamming a decision by Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani to order the Iraqi
      national flag to be replaced with the Kurdish one in his northern autonomous
      region.

      The move has troubled Sunni Arabs, who fear Kurds are pushing for secession
      under the nation's new federal system.

      Sunni Arab lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq said there was no problem with the Kurds
      "keeping the land that's within their acknowledged borders," but he said that
      lowering the Iraqi flag "is definitely disturbing for us and any patriotic
      individual in Iraq."

      A spokesman for the Kurdistan government defended his government's decision to
      remove the Iraqi flag.

      "We consider that this flag represents the ideology of the Baath Party" of
      Saddam Hussein, Khalid Saleh told The Associated Press. "And this regime has
      collapsed."

      In Washington, a day after a Pentagon report described spreading sectarian
      violence, President Bush painted a rosier picture.

      "Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not
      descended into a civil war," he said, although he acknowledged "a bloody
      campaign of sectarian violence" and the "difficult and dangerous" work of
      trying to end it.

      ___

      Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana and Rawya Rageh in Baghdad
      contributed to this report.
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