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Iraq Considering Amnesty Plan for Militants - 2004-07-04

The new Iraqi interim government says it is considering offering amnesty to militants and insurgents, in hopes of cutting down the daily attacks against Iraqis and coalition forces. At the same time, Iraqi police say they have arrested members of a terror group with suspected ties to al-Qaida.

In a joint operation with U.S. forces, Iraqi police announced the arrest of six suspected members of the Iraqi militant group Ansar al-Islam, believed to have ties with the terror group al-Qaida.

The arrests, announced Sunday, occurred in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Ansar al-Islam is suspected of committing numerous bomb attacks that have killed scores of Iraqis.

The announcement follows the disclosure Saturday that U.S. forces had discovered a bomb-making factory in southern Iraq along with four cars rigged with explosives. Thirty suspects were taken into custody.

While Iraqi and U.S. forces reported successes in their hunt for suspected insurgents, an announcement from the new Iraqi interim government is expected soon offering amnesty to other militants fighting occupation forces.

The interim government believes many of them have taken up arms because they had either lost their jobs as a result of the occupation, or were left without work when Iraq's old army was disbanded. The government plan is to try to help those who come forward with jobs. The surrendering insurgents must hand over their weapons, acknowledge that they were wrong and promise never to commit such acts again.

The government hopes the offer of amnesty will help cut down on acts of violence against Iraqis and coalition troops, which average about 45 attacks each day.

In another development, 15-months after rolling into Baghdad and southern Iraq, the 20,000 strong First Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment packed up their flags Sunday, and began the process of returning home.

Their tours were the longest of any military unit in Iraq. They arrived in Baghdad in May 2003.

They will be replaced by 12,000 fresh military troops from other American units.