Four Marines, soldier killed in Iraq
Thursday, June 22, 2006; Posted: 4:58 p.m. EDT (20:58 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that the commanding general in Iraq will recommend when to cut U.S. troop levels, in consultation with the nation's new government and other officials.
Speaking at a news conference, Rumsfeld quashed earlier indications from military sources that Gen. George Casey was considering a gradual force reduction in Iraq.
The sources had told CNN that Casey was considering cuts that would amount to as many as two brigades -- an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 troops. The United States has about 127,000 troops in Iraq.
"As the Iraqi forces continue to take over bases and provinces and areas of responsibility and move into the lead, we expect that Gen. Casey will come back and make a recommendation after he's had those discussions," Rumsfeld said.
Casey said he opposes setting a timetable for withdrawing forces.
"I don't like it. I feel it would limit my flexibility. I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable, and I think it would give a terrible signal to a new government of national unity in Iraq, which is trying to stand up and get its legs underneath it."
Also Thursday, the U.S. military reported the deaths of five U.S. service members in recent attacks near Baghdad and in Anbar province.
Four of those were Marines killed in two attacks Tuesday in Anbar.
Three Marines died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb; the fourth Marine died "after being attacked while conducting security operations," a military news release said.
The military also reported that a U.S. soldier died Wednesday when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb south of the Iraqi capital.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 2,503. Seven American civilians working as military contractors also have died in the conflict.
Some hostages released
After abducting about 80 Iraqis as they left work Wednesday, kidnappers released more than half of them -- mostly women and Sunni Arabs -- and killed two, according to Iraqi officials.
The two bodies were found late Wednesday in Taji, north of Baghdad, where the abductions took place hours earlier, a Baghdad emergency police official said.
Both were shot, the official said.
About 30 minutes after the abduction, the kidnappers released 16 women, dropping them off near the Nasr al-Adhim factory, where they worked, Iraqi Industry Minister Fawzi al-Hariri said.
Hours later, 30 others were freed, police said.
Iraqi authorities said they believe the kidnappers still hold at least 30 employees at an unknown location.
The workers had just boarded four buses at the end of their shift Wednesday when the gunmen commandeered the vehicles, an Iraqi police official said.
At least 40 gunmen in four vehicles were involved in the attack on the buses, which were headed to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, al-Hariri said.
The factory employed 4,000 people, but only 1,500 are still working there, because of the security situation, al-Hariri added.
Relatives of Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, who was captured last week during an insurgent attack in Iraq, said Thursday that the U.S. military had confirmed one of two brutalized bodies found near the abduction site was his, The Associated Press reported. (Full story)
A car bomb detonated Thursday near a movie theater in central Baghdad, killing two people and wounding five others, police said.
CNN's Arwa Damon, Cal Perry, Nic Robertson, Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.