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US Military Says Sunni and Shi'ite Iraqis Turning From al-Qaida

The U.S. military in Iraq says tips it received from security volunteers helped aircraft find and kill 20 insurgents in a recent battle. VOA's Jim Randle reports, the area near Camp Taji has seen Sunni and Shi'ite tribes turn away from al-Qaida and offer help to the Iraqi government and its U.S. allies.

The fight started Saturday when tips from local security volunteers alerted U.S. forces that a group of insurgents was operating about 30 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, near a major U.S. base.

The military said when Army aircraft went out to investigate, observers saw about 25 people, many carrying weapons.

A mlitary spokesman says the people on the ground fired at the aircraft. In the ensuing battle, four vehicles were destroyed and most of the suspected insurgents died.

No volunteers or U.S. soldiers were hurt in the fight.

U.S. officials and municipal leaders tell VOA that a series of brutal actions by al-Qaida, including beheadings and car bombs, angered some local tribal leaders who turned away from the terror group and offered help to the government, including volunteers to watch over neighborhoods.

Some of Iraq's continuing violence has affected schools, deeply worrying Iraqi parents. But just the same, millions of Iraqi school children headed to class for the first day of the new academic year.

A teacher in Haifa Primary School in Baghdad, Khudier Abbas, hoped for a very good year.

Student Sabah Ali, at another primary school in Baghdad's Sadr City, hoped for success for herself and other schoolgirls.

Some students and teachers urged the government to improve security so they can continue their studies.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah urged the leaders of Iraq's Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni communities to work toward national reconciliation. He called for Iraq to remain one country, rejecting calls for the country to be divided into three ethnic enclaves.

Last week, in a move intended to cool sectarian strife in Iraq, the U.S. Senate passed a non-binding resolution supporting division of the country. Iraq's government and the Bush Administration oppose the idea.

Political and sectarian violence in Iraq has caused about 750,000 Iraqis to flee to Jordan. About 4.2 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes by the current conflict.