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Iraqi Prime Minister Tours Battle Front in Northern City


Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari toured the embattled city of Tal Afar Monday, where Iraqi forces backed by U.S. troops are trying to drive insurgents from their northern stronghold.

The prime minister's office confirmed the visit, which came despite insurgent threats to counter-attack coalition forces in the city with chemical weapons.

Some insurgent positions were found deserted Sunday, as 5,000 Iraqi soldiers and 3,500 U.S. armored cavalry troops pushed into the near-empty city. U.S. authorities say they suspect many insurgents escaped the fighting through a network of tunnels found beneath the city on Sunday.

In Baghdad today, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said 157 insurgents have been killed since Sunday. The U.S. military reported 141 insurgent fatalities in the previous 24 hours.

Reuters news agency quotes a Defense Ministry spokesman as saying the operation should be completed by Thursday.

Some information provided by AP and AFP.

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