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Iraq Transition

U.S. doubts Mosul attack hit al-Zarqawi

Gunmen launch deadly ambush against Marine convoy

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An Iraqi soldier helps to secure the site of an attack Sunday in Basra against a British military convoy.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military is conducting tests to determine whether terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among those killed in a weekend raid in northern Iraq, but a White House official called that prospect "highly unlikely."

The raid took place Saturday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Sunday.

The official said U.S. commanders do not know whether al-Zarqawi -- whom U.S. authorities call al Qaeda's top man in Iraq -- was in the house, which was targeted because suspected al Qaeda members were thought to be inside.

In Beijing, China, a stop on President Bush's trip to Asia, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones discounted the prospect of al-Zarqawi's death.

"The report is highly unlikely and not credible," he said.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi is the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, with the United States offering a $25 million reward for his capture or death. (Watch: Dead or alive, or does it matter? -- 2:34)

He is blamed by authorities for numerous major bombings in Iraq and for the November 9 attacks on three hotels in Jordan's capital, Amman, which left 60 people dead, including the three bombers.

A Friday statement attributed to him said the hotel bombings were aimed at U.S., Israeli and Iraqi intelligence agents and Israeli tourists. But most of those who died in the attacks were Jordanians attending a wedding party at a Radisson hotel.

Also Sunday, a U.S. military statement said gunmen ambushed a U.S. Marine convoy in Iraq after it was struck by a roadside bomb.

A Marine died when his vehicle was hit by the explosion near the western city of Haditha, the statement said.

Gunmen then shot at the convoy, and Marines and Iraqi soldiers fired back, the military said.

Fifteen civilians and eight insurgents were killed in the gunbattle on Saturday, according to officials.

Presidents address insurgency

Violence continued across Iraq on Sunday, with the presidents of Iraq and the U.S. addressing ways to deal with the insurgency.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he was prepared to hold talks with those who opposed his government.

"I want to listen to all Iraqis. I am committed to listen to them, even those who are criminals and are on trial," he told reporters in Cairo, Egypt, adding that he would only meet those who had laid down their arms. (Full story)

In China, Bush repeated that he would not withdraw American forces from Iraq prematurely.

He praised the service record of Democrat Congressman John Murtha but said heeding his call to pull troops out would only embolden the insurgency. (Full story)

The U.S. military launched a new offensive overnight, with about 150 Iraqi Army soldiers and 300 U.S. Marines and soldiers deployed for launched Operation Bruins in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a statement said.

The operation is part of a series of "disruption operations" in Ramadi and aimed at stabilizing the area in time for December 15 elections, the military said.

Forces were conducting cordon-and-search operations, blocking escape routes for suspected insurgents and searching for weapons caches, officials said in the statement.

The push follows Operation Panthers, which targeted operations in eastern Ramadi, and a November 17 engagement where soldiers repelled an insurgent attack and killed 32 suspected insurgents in downtown Ramadi.

"The caches found during Operation Panthers, along with the recent capture of three high-value insurgent targets, have been part of continuous disruption operations in the Ramadi area," the military said. "Attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in the Ramadi area have decreased 60 percent in the last few weeks."

Violence continued for the third consecutive day Sunday.

A British soldier was killed in the southern city of Basra and four other soldiers were wounded in the midday attack, the British military said. According to the British government, 98 British troops have died in the Iraq war.

Basra is one of the largest cities in Iraq and is the base of the British command.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 2,092 after a U.S. Marine died Sunday of gunshot wounds suffered during combat operations in al-Karmah. Also on Sunday, insurgents shot dead a U.S. soldier north of Baghdad.

Bomb blast kills child

Insurgents in the Baghdad area killed a child and a police officer and wounded at least 12 people Sunday.

A roadside bomb killed the child and wounded five other Iraqi civilians in western Baghdad's al-Jamia neighborhood, Iraqi police said.

Insurgents also was gunned down an Iraqi police officer in a drive-by shooting in western Baghdad, police said.

Maj. Nasir Hamid Bunni, who worked in al-Dora police station, was driving his private car and wearing civilian clothes when he was killed in the Nafaq al-Shurta neighborhood, police said.

Also Sunday, five Iraqi citizens were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy, Iraqi police said. The U.S. military sealed off the area on Mohammed al-Qasim highway.

In central Baghdad, two civilians were wounded when insurgents fired a rocket that landed on a house in the al-Iqari neighborhood, police said.

Minutes earlier, three bodies were found by Iraqi police on the outskirts of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad. The men were blindfolded, had their hands tied behind their backs and had been shot in the head, police said.

Also Sunday, the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Moqtadiye, Sheik Sa'ed El-Mehdawi, died of wounds he received four days earlier when he was shot as he was leaving his home in Moqtadiye, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

Sunday's bloodshed came one day after a suicide car bomber struck a funeral Saturday evening north of Baghdad, killing at least 25 people, Iraqi police in Abu Sayda said. (Full story)

The attack occurred just hours after two separate car bombings in Baghdad killed 12 people Saturday, police said. (Watch: Funeral, market attacks widen sectarian split -- 1:33)

Suicide bombings killed nearly 100 people Friday in Baghdad and in the eastern town of Khanaqin near the Iranian border, hospital officials said. (Full story)

Other developments

  • About 125 miles north of the capital, five U.S. soldiers were killed and five were wounded in two separate homemade bomb attacks Saturday in the vicinity of Bayji, the U.S. military said. The soldiers were with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called Saturday for an international investigation into detention conditions in Iraq. The discovery of more than 160 prisoners at an Iraq ministry compound revealed signs of torture. (Full story)
  • CNN's Cal Perry contributed to this report.

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