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US Air Strike Targets Militia in Southern Iraqi Town


Iraqi and U.S. forces continued security operations for a second day in the southern city of Diwaniyah. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say a regional conference on Iraq will be held early next month in Egypt. From Baghdad, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the day's developments.

The U.S. military says its forces launched an air strike on Diwaniyah Saturday as clashes between militiamen and security forces continued for a second straight day. The military said the fighters were using shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said a local resident tipped police off about the fighters.

"We received information about the location of the militia members from a local who provided a tip to police," said Garver. "The information was translated into an air strike mission by the Iraqis and a U.S. F-16 [aircraft] came in and attacked the target and destroyed it."

Lieutenant Colonel Garver said it is the first time an air strike was conducted with Iraqi soldiers talking to coalition pilots.

"This is a big step forward for the Iraqi army, for the Iraqi security force, to be able to coordinate this type of complex operation," he added.

Meanwhile, operations continued in Baghdad in support of the security plan. Military officials say U.S. and Iraqi troops discovered weapons caches and bomb making materials and captured terrorist suspects in the capital.

The U.S. military reported the deaths of two more American soldiers in separate bomb blasts in Baghdad. Both attacks occurred Friday. April has been a particularly deadly month for U.S. troops, with 17 killed in the first week.

In a separate development, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says a conference on Iraq will be held May 3rd and 4th in Egypt. It will include regional neighbors as well as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and so-called Group of Eight industrialized nations.

Zebari said the purpose of the meeting is to involve Iraq's neighbors and other influential countries in supporting Iraq's security.

This conference follows an ambassador-level meeting held in Baghdad last month that also discussed the security situation.

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