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Iraqi Shiites, Kurds Announce New Political Alliance

Many Sunni and Shiite cabinet ministers and parliament members are boycotting the government based on a wide variety of complaints. One group that has pulled out of both the cabinet and parliament follows Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands the most powerful militia in Iraq, the Mahdi Army.

"They are saying that this bloc is for moderates and nationalists," said Haidar Fakhar Adin, a parliament member loyal to Sadr. "Where are the moderates and nationalists who are ignoring whole sects, blocs and political parties?"

On Thursday night, U.S. soldiers shot a Hellfire air-to-ground missile into a mosque north of Baghdad after gunmen who had been firing from the mosque refused to leave, according to Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a U.S. military spokesman in northern Iraq. The fighting around 11 p.m. occurred in Tarmiyah, part of Baghdad province, at the Honest Mohammed Mosque.

Donnelly said in an e-mail that U.S. troops suffered two casualties from the initial gunfire from the mosque, and after unsuccessfully making loudspeaker attempts to get the gunmen to leave, attack helicopters fired the missile into the mosque. U.S. forces detained about 20 people after the fighting, he said.

North of Baghdad, two U.S. soldiers were killed and six were wounded in fighting on Wednesday. Another soldier died of noncombat causes Thursday in Baghdad, the military said.

A car bomb in eastern Baghdad, at Rusafa Square, destroyed 38 vehicles and wounded three Iraqis, according to the U.S. military.

In a separate development, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker told the Reuters news service that if U.S. troops withdraw from the country, Iranian influence could grow.

"One area of clear concern is Iran," Crocker was quoted as saying. "The Iranians aren't going anywhere. I have significant concerns that a coalition withdrawal would lead to a major Iranian advance. And we need to consider what the consequences of that would be."

Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad, Dlovan Brwari in Dahuk and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.


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