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Iraq to propose new Baghdad security plan

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Under a new plan, Iraqis will have the ability to launch security operations without a multinational OK, the Iraqi government said Thursday.

The security plan for war-torn Baghdad would ostensibly place Iraqi troops in the lead and coalition forces in a supporting role.

The plan emerged during talks among officials from the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries as well as the Multi-National Forces in Iraq --and during the visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Baghdad.

The plan, which "will see the light of day soon," according to Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, would create a system with "swifter mobilization and decision-making."

There will be an overall Iraqi commander for Baghdad and one commander each from the largely Sunni area west of the Tigris River, called Karkh, and the largely Shiite area east of the river, called Rusafa. One commander will be from the Interior Ministry, the other from the Defense Ministry, Khalaf said.

In addition, a commander will be in charge of nine security districts in Baghdad, he said.

Security forces will remain at the same level, Khalaf said. As many as 45,000 Iraqi security forces have been in Baghdad in recent weeks.

They'll be provided with better bomb detection equipment placed at the city's entrances and 200 explosives experts. The equipment will allow troops to detect explosives from a distance of 100 meters or more.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's efforts to establish security in Baghdad have faltered in the face of Sunni-Shiite violence.

Attackers killed at least 18 people inBaghdad on Thursday, including 15 in a suicide strike that targeted men enlisting in the national police force, authorities said.

In addition, police found 38 bodies shot to death in what are regarded as sectarian killings, bringing the two-day count of bullet-riddled bodies found in Baghdad to 114.

Many of the people were bound, blindfolded and tortured, the Interior Ministry said. On Wednesday, police discovered 76 bodies in a similar state -- one of the highest daily body counts since the aftermath of the February bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque, the revered Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Thursday's suicide strike outside the Baghdad police academy involved an insurgent who detonated his explosives belt and killed at least 12 recruits and three police officers, the U.S. military said Iraqi police reported.

The attack also left 15 people wounded, authorities said.

In western Baghdad, a car bomb killed two people and wounded two others. Gunmen also attacked two female teachers, killing one and wounding another, as they were driving home from work.

Also in western Baghdad, armed men broke into the house of an adviser to Defense Minister Abdul Qadir, stole weapons and blew up his car. No one was at home at the time.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross called on kidnappers to release "unharmed, immediately and unconditionally" the remaining hostages taken from a Red Crescent office in Baghdad Sunday.

Fourteen of the 30 men taken have been freed. The Red Crescent said it will not resume its aid work in Baghdad until all are released.

Gates, the new U.S. defense secretary, met with about 15 U.S. soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division in Baghdad on Thursday to gauge whether to send more troops to Iraq. (Watch Gates seek an unfiltered view of U.S. troops, IraqisVideo)

Several soldiers said reinforcements would help, but military commanders have expressed concerns that a troop increase woulddelay Iraqis' efforts to take control of their security. (Full story)

Gates also met with Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister al-Maliki, the defense minister and members of the Iraqi Security Council, The Associated Press reported.

Gates has said the ultimate decision hinges on the "basic questions about the surge: What is the mission, what is the purpose, can we do it, how big can we go?"

Soldier, Marine killed

A U.S. soldier and Marine died from wounds sustained during combat in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, the U.S. military announced on Thursday.

The Marine, assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, died Wednesday, and the U.S. soldier, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7, died Tuesday, the military said.

Roadside bombs killed two U.S. soldiers in and around Baghdad on Wednesday, the military said.

The deaths bring the number of U.S. service members killed since the start of the Iraq war to to 2,951. In the month of December so far, 69 U.S. troops have been killed.

Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.

Other developments


  • Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met with representatives of seven Shiite groups comprising the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament Thursday in Najaf to discuss a one-month unilateral cease-fire, Shiite officials said. Also on the table was the lifting of a three-week boycott of al-Maliki's coalition and rejoining the political process. (Details)


  • A formal delegation from the Shiite-led political bloc -- the United Iraqi Alliance -- will travel to Najaf to meet with Iraq's most powerful cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, next week. The effort is aimed at avoiding a splintering within the Shiite alliance and forming a broader political alliance with other parties to stem sectarian violence. The delegation will meet separately with al-Sadr, said Ridha Jawad Taqi, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance.


  • Military prosecutors on Thursday charged a Marine sergeant with 13 counts of murder in connection with the shooting deaths of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last year, his lawyer said. As many as seven other Marines could be charged. (Full story)

    CNN's Sam Dagher, Kyung Lah and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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