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Marines Announce New Iraqi Security Force for Fallujah - 2004-04-30

A U.S. general says a new Iraqi force is being formed to take control of security in Fallujah, the scene of many recent battles between insurgents and U.S. forces.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt says the new force will consist of between 600 and 1100 men, many of whom were soldiers in Saddam Hussein's army. He says the force -- known as the First Fallujah Brigade -- will be integrated with U.S. Marines who now encircle the city.

He told reporters in Baghdad Friday, that Marines are not withdrawing from the city but have handed over some checkpoints to members of the new force.

He said the commander named to lead the force, Jasim Mohammed Saleh, was "carefully chosen." General Saleh was a senior officer in ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. Residents of Fallujah cheered Friday, when the commander walked through the city center.

General Kimmit also says that two U.S. Marines were killed and six others wounded by a car bomb Friday, outside Fallujah.

Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city in central Iraq, has been a focal point of anti-coalition resistance. U.S. authorities have said many of the estimated 2,000 insurgents are thought to have served under Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Marines began a crackdown in Fallujah earlier this month after four American civilian security guards were killed in the city and their bodies publicly mutilated.

On Thursday, 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks -- eight of them in a car bombing just south of Baghdad. A foreign civilian died in Basra.

More than 120 soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq in April -- more than during the U.S.-led invasion of the country last year.