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10 Iraqis Reported Killed In US Air Strike - 2004-07-05

Iraqi witnesses say at least 10 people have been killed in Fallujah in a U.S. air strike on a suspected hideout of alleged al-Qaida-linked militants.

At least three people were injured in Monday's attack. U.S. military officials confirmed the air strike took place, but made no mention of casualties.

In a statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Iraqi forces gave the U.S. military intelligence for the strike.

Coalition forces have made similar attacks on suspected hideouts of militants linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with alleged ties to al-Qaida. Mr. al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks last month.

Separately, the government has postponed its announcement of a planned amnesty for some Iraqis who fought coalition forces. A spokesman for Mr. Allawi indicated the government is working out final details of the plan.

For nearly a week, the government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has been widely expected to announce a limited amnesty for low-level insurgents in a bid to quell a campaign of bombings and ambush attacks across Iraq since Saddam Hussein's removal from power.

But the announcement was put on hold Monday. A spokesman for Mr. Allawi says the delay was prompted by security concerns, and to give the government more time to put the finishing touches on a comprehensive plan to boost security in Iraq.

The spokesman said the plan will address several areas of concern, including rules for search and seizure when it comes to suspects and their property. He said the amnesty will not be a blanket pardon for those who have perpetrated violence in Iraq; rather, it entails a conditional pardon for those who collaborated with insurgents and terrorists, but committed no violent acts themselves.

Speaking on U.S. television, ABC's This Week program Sunday, Mr. Allawi said security will continue to be a primary concern of his government.

"We will take various measures that we will be able to implement whenever and if the situation requires," he said. "I always maintained that we will witness an escalation in insurgency and terrorist activities. They might be regrouping. That is why we have to be on the alert. We have to be prepared. We have to be ready to defend our people."

The postponement of the amnesty announcement followed a denunciation of the interim government by militant Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who said the unelected body is "illegitimate," and would be opposed to the "last drop of blood." A spokesman for the cleric told reporters Mr. al-Sadr is advocating peaceful resistance and not a call to arms. Democratic elections are expected in Iraq in early 2005.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials continue to hold out hope that kidnapped Lebanese-American Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun is alive. A Web site linked to suspected militants had reported the corporal's beheading, but on Sunday, the group claiming to hold the serviceman denied carrying out the execution.

U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt welcomed the news. "The group that at first claimed they beheaded the Marine are now claiming they have not beheaded the Marine," he said. "We see that as optimistic; we find it as good news. I know the family [of the Marine] is pleased with that news. We would continue to tell that group to turn this Marine over to proper authorities without harm."