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Pre-Election Violence Continues In Iraq

7 January 2005 -- The United States military says a roadside bomb has killed seven U.S. soldiers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

A U.S. military statement said a Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by the bomb as the soldiers patrolled in northwest Baghdad yesterday evening, killing everyone inside the vehicle.

The U.S. military also reported the deaths of two Marines yesterday during operations in the Anbar Province west of Baghdad.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has announced the 30-day extension of a state of emergency in a bid to give government forces more powers to safeguard the 30 January elections from insurgent attacks.

U.S. Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, commander of American ground forces in Iraq, said security remains poor in four of Iraq's 18 provinces. But he said a delay in the poll would only increase the danger by giving militants more time to intimidate.

At a meeting in Jordan, Iraq's neighboring countries have pledged not to interfere in the elections and urged all Iraqis to vote. The Amman meeting resulted in a joint statement from the foreign ministers of Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, and a senior Iranian official.

Abu Ghurayb Trial Begins

The United States military is due today to open the court-martial of U.S. soldier Charles Graner, who is pictured in some of the most notorious photographs of the Abu Ghurayb prison abuse scandal.

Graner, whose trial is to take place at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, is accused of being a leader of the abuse at the prison outside Baghdad.

In one photo, the army reservist prison guard is seen giving a "thumbs up" behind a pile of naked inmates.

Graner has pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy, assault, and committing indecent acts.

A lawyer for Graner, Guy Womack, says the defense will argue that Graner was ordered by higher-ranking soldiers and intelligence agents to "soften up" the Abu Ghurayb detainees for interrogators.

Three other soldiers from Graner's unit have already pleaded guilty to abuse charges and received sentences.

(AP/AFP/Reuters)

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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