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Local al-Qaida Leader Killed in Samarra

A local leader of al-Qaida in Iraq has been killed by coalition forces.

U.S. and Iraqi officials say Hamid al-Takhi and two other militants were killed Friday, during a raid near the city of Samarra. Al-Takhi was believed to be the leader of al-Qaida forces in and around Samarra.

The U.S. military said Iraqi troops later found a car loaded with a grenade launcher, rockets, grenades and small arms nearby.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said Iraqi troops killed 21 insurgents and captured 43 others during a series of insurgent attacks on security installations northeast of Baghdad.

A military statement Friday said seven Iraqi soldiers and two civilians also were killed during two days of fighting near the city of Baquba. Eight soldiers and four policemen were wounded.

On the political front, Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki appears to have won support from the country's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in dismantling militias.

During a meeting with Mr. al-Maliki, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Thursday said weapons should only be in the hands of government security forces.

The prime minister-designate also held talks with radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Mr. al-Maliki, who has until May 21 to name his Cabinet, said he is working to form a national unity government that will include all segments of the Iraqi people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.