In Iraq, a U.S. Marine helicopter was shot down in the southern city of Najaf during clashes between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to a radical Shi'ite cleric there. But some good news amid the non-ending violence: Iraqi athletes are celebrated ahead of their trip to the Olympics.

U.S. forces clashed with militia loyal to radical Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad and the southern city of Najaf. The cleric led a rebellion earlier this year against the U.S.-led occupation and once again has called on his followers to rise up against U.S. forces.

A military spokesman says local authorities in Najaf requested U.S. help after al-Sadr supporters attacked the main police station.

A Marine helicopter was shot down during the fighting.

A car bomb outside a police station in another town south of Baghdad has killed at least five people.

Four Jordanians who had been held hostage in Iraq have returned home to the relief of families and friends. They had been held captive more than a week and then freed late Tuesday in a raid on their hideout in the western city of Fallujah.

In the United States, the military pretrial hearing opened this week for a female soldier accused of abusing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. Private first class Lynndie England, who is facing a court-martial, was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash. Detainees have identified private England as one of the soldiers who had abused and humiliated them.

Iraqis had some good news on Thursday.

Iraq's National Olympic Committee celebrates Iraqi athletes who will represent their country at the Olympic games in Athens later this month.

Committee member Ahmed Abd al Ghafour al Hajiye:

"This is one of the greatest things in our job, to prepare an Olympic team, and in short time," Mr. al Hajiye said. "Certainly we have lack of fields, facilities and equipment to be there, but thankfully we have received help from some friendly countries to reach Athens."

Mr. Gharfour is hoping Iraq can finish in the top six in weightlifting or boxing.