Iraq's national football team has returned home to a heroic welcome after winning the Asian Cup championship in Jakarta last Sunday.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the team has "brought the smile back to the lips of Iraq." He embraced each player and placed garlands of flowers around their necks at official ceremonies in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone Friday. Most Baghdad residents, however, were barred from the celebration because of security concerns.
Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the Asian Cup final, sparking a rare moment of national jubilation.
Violence, however, continued in Iraq.
Gunmen late Thursday killed an aide to Iraq's most revered Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, while the U.S. military announced four American soldiers were killed in combat in Baghdad.
The U.S. military also announced that 17 suspected insurgents were detained today in raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq along Iraq's Tigris River.
In other news, the Iraqi government said Prime Minister Maliki will visit Turkey on Tuesday and Iran on Wednesday. A spokesman for Mr. Maliki said the prime minister's meetings in both countries will focus on security issues. Discussions in Ankara will address Turkish concerns about Kurdish rebels operating out of northern Iraq.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.