Security has been stepped up across Iraq following the attack in the southern town of Nasiriya which killed up to 31 people. Codenamed Iron Hammer, the operation has been described as a far tougher approach by the U.S.
In Tikrit U.S. helicopter gunships killed seven Iraqis and arrested at least four suspected of involvement in last week’s downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that killed all six Americans on board.
In Basra, Coalition Provisional Authority staff have been confined to their headquarters until Saturday evening after the threat of a possible attack.
In Baghdad, troops fired mortars and artillery at a former Republican Guard compound near the international airport. In a separate incident Iraqi guerillas attacked a convoy north of the capital, killing a U.S. civilian contractor and wounding another American. The U.S. military also is looking into the reported disappearance of an American contractor, Kirk von Ackermann who went missing last month while driving between Tikrit and Kirkuk.
Beginning a visit to Japan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there were no plans for an early US withdrawal from Iraq, but said that Iraqis would get political power more quickly than had initially been thought. This comes as Japan decides to withdraw its symbolic offer to send 700 soldiers to Iraq.
The U.S. general leading the military operation in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, estimated yesterday that coalition forces face no more than 5,000 guerilla soldiers in Iraq. This comes despite news yesterday of a leaked top-secret CIA report from Iraq that estimates there are now 10 times that, or 50,000, resistance fighters in the country. Abizaid said “The goal of the enemy is not to defeat us militarily. The goal of the enemy is to break the will of the United States of America, to make us leave.” Abizaid also announced that he is moving his headquarters from the U.S. back to Qatar as a result of the rise in attacks.
The U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War. This according to a Reuters analysis of Pentagon statistics. Nearly 400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the invasion. More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel died in Vietnam before the war ended in the mid-1970s.
The Army is tightening rules on press coverage of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Officials said reporters will be restricted to a roped-in “bullpen” generally far enough away from the graveside that they would likely be unable to hear a chaplain’s eulogy.
Chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy S. Moore was removed from office by a state disciplinary court yesterday for defying a federal court order in August to remove a 2 1/2-ton Ten Commandments monument that he installed more than two years ago in the Supreme Court building. During a one-day trial on six ethics charges, the unanimous court said Moore brought “disrepute” to the judiciary by defying the court order to remove the monument.
Moore is free to run again for Supreme Court justice, though his soaring celebrity makes him a likely candidate for Senator or Governor. This according to the Washington Post. Addressing tearful supporters outside the court building, he said, “The battle is not over. The battle will rage across the country.”
Prosecutors delivered their closing arguments yesterday in the case against alleged DC sniper John Allen Muhammad. Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty have acknowledged that their case against Muhammad is circumstantial but convincing and lengthy with 150 witnesses over 16 days.
This came on the same day as opening statements in the trial of Muhammed’s alleged co-conspirator–Lee Boyd Malvo. The lead prosecutor told the New York Times “He’s glib. He’s articulate. He’s knowledgeable. He talks about the killing power of the rifle he used and the damage it can cause.”
Republicans surprised Democrats on Thursday by deciding to extend their around-the-clock debate on blocked judicial nominees by another nine hours. Republicans had instigated the marathon session to call attention to the filibusters Democrats have used to block Bush’s judicial nominees. The Wall Street Journal described the Capitol as “insomniac central.” The debate is supposed to be extended until mid-morning today, making it the longest nonstop debate in the Senate in 15 years.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry yesterday shrugged off the dismissal of his campaign manager and the subsequent departure of two senior staffers, saying “What’s important is that I as a chief executive made a tough decision. And if somebody else is not loyal to me but is loyal to the manager, they don’t belong in the campaign.”
Newsday is reporting that immigrants restricted to temporary stays in the U.S. must soon re-register their presence in the country or face possible arrest or deportation. After the Sept. 11 attacks, federal authorities last year began requiring male immigrants from 25 countries to register. With the exception of North Korea, 24 of the 25 countries on the list have Muslim majorities.
Under the program over 80,000 immigrants had registered themselves as of Sept. 30 last year. Officials claim that immigrants were told about the annual re-registration requirement when they initially reported.
This news from Israel: Four former Israeli security service chiefs launched a unprecedented scathing attack on the government’s handling of the so-called “peace process” with the Palestinians. The men called for Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and dismantle Jewish settlements, or face “disaster”. Former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri told one newspaper “Sharon has spoken often about the need for painful compromises, and there are no painful compromises except evacuation of settlements.”
The Illinois Leader is reporting that an Illinois National Guard soldier may face court martial for her public criticism of President Bush on a local Rockford area radio talk show last Friday. According to the Leader, Seargent Jessica Macek at home on leave, said the President lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq. A US Central Command spokesman responded to the comments saying “While she wears the uniform she voluntarily agreed to curtail her behavior for the purpose of maintaining discipline and cohesion.”
And the oldest person in the world died yesterday. Mitoyo Kawate was born in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower was completed. She died of pneumonia in a nursing home in Hiroshima, Japan. She was 114 years old.