Homecoming Delayed For 4,000 U.S. Troops In Iraq - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Homecoming Delayed For 4,000 U.S. Troops In Iraq

The Army has extended the combat tours of about 4,000 soldiers who would otherwise be returning home, a defense official said Monday.

The 1st Brigade of 1st Armored Division, which is operating in the vicinity of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, will be kept in place for several weeks beyond their scheduled departure, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced by the Pentagon.

The brigade's home base is in Germany. The soldiers' families were notified of the extension Monday, the official said.

The brigade has about 4,000 soldiers in Iraq. They were scheduled to be there a maximum of 12 months, but they are not the first to be extended.

In late July the Army extended the Iraq tour of the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade. About 300 soldiers from that unit had returned home and were required to go back to Iraq. The brigade is now operating in Baghdad.

The 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division was extended to allow its replacement unit, from the 3rd Infantry Division, the minimum 12 months between overseas tours, the official said. The 3rd Infantry has served two tours in Iraq, including the initial invasion of the country in March 2003.

Last week, the top American commander in the region said the U.S. military is likely to maintain and may even increase its force of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring.

Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said military leaders would consider adding troops or extending the Iraq deployments of other units if needed.

Until sectarian violence spiked early this year, Bush administration officials had voiced hopes that this election year would see significant U.S. troop reductions in what has become a widely unpopular war.

Recent events may fuel that unpopularity.

Retired military officers on Monday bluntly accused Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public. (Full story)

And Democrats seized on leaks from an intelligence assessment that said the Iraq war has increased the terrorist threat. (Full story)

Committee formed to consider constitutional changes

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Iraq's feuding ethnic and sectarian groups moved ahead Monday with forming a committee to consider amending the constitution, after their leaders agreed to delay any division of the country into autonomous states until 2008.

As legislators formed a 27-member committee to begin talking about amending Iraq's constitution, official observances of Ramadan were punctuated with violence around the country.

Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders in parliament formed the constitutional committee.

Although federalism is enshrined in the constitution approved by Iraqis in a referendum a year ago, the right to seek amendments to the charter was a key demand made by Sunni Arabs when they agreed to join Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government in the spring.

The deal opened the way for Iraq's communities to move ahead politically and solve an impasse that threatened to further sour relations among them. If left unresolved, the deadlock could have further shaken Iraq's fragile democracy and led to more sectarian violence.

But sectarian violence was evident around Iraq Monday.

Police attacked, bodies found

One policeman was killed and six wounded when their station in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad came under heavy attack, police said.

Six cars drove up to the building at about 8:30 a.m.and opened fire with machine-guns, then began firing volleys of mortar shells, police Capt. Salah al-Maamouri said. The unidentified attackers then fled when American troops arrived.

In southeastern Baghdad at around the same time, police found the bodies of two men in their 30s. They had been shot several times in the head, and their hands and legs were bound, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majeed said.

In the capital's eastern Wahda neighborhood, three policemen were wounded in a bomb attack. A bomb planted under a civilian car exploded, setting it on fire. When police moved in to investigate, a second bomb exploded, causing the injuries, Majeed said.

About 70 miles west of Baghdad in Ramadi, a suicide bomber drove a car into a police checkpoint. Seven policemen were killed and seven others injured, police and hospital officials said.

Iraq has seen increased violence during Ramadan in the past, and Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition, warned last week it was anticipated that Iraq's severe sectarian violence would escalate during the holy month again.

'Significant' terrorist killed

British forces killed Omar Faruq, a "terrorist of considerable significance" in a pre-dawn raid Monday in southern Basra, a military official said.

Faruq was killed in a raid against his home when he opened fire on British soldiers entering the building, British forces spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge said.

"We had information that a terrorist of considerable significance was hiding in Basra, as a result of that information we conducted an operation in an attempt to arrest him," Burbridge told The Associated Press by telephone from southern Iraq. "During the attempted arrest Omar Faruq was killed, which is regrettable because we wanted to arrest him."

When asked if it was the same Omar Faruq who was a top leader of al Qaeda in Southeast Asia who escaped last year from a U.S. prison in Afghanistan, he said he could not elaborate, citing British policy not allowing him to link an individual to a specific organization.

But neighbors told The AP that Faruq was a member of al Qaeda and had received training in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Basra police Lt. Col. Kareem al-Zubaidi identified the man by a different name, but said he was a known Iraqi extremist who returned two weeks ago after reportedly fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. command had no immediate comment on the incident.

Also Monday, the chief judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial threw the ex-president out of the courtroom in a stormy session boycotted by the former ruler's defense team. (Full story)

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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