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Iraqi citizens group holds off al-Qaida

The Baltimore Sun

BAGHDAD -- U.S. and Iraqi army units supported a citizen policing group in a daylong battle that repelled an al-Qaida in Iraq assault on a town south of the capital, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Between 30 and 45 attackers on foot and in vehicles mounted with machine guns stormed two checkpoints manned by a citizens' group that had recently formed to protect Adwaniya, about 12 miles south of Baghdad.

The untested residents, fighting with their personal weapons and minimal combat gear, held their positions until help arrived first from the Iraqi army and then U.S. ground and aerial forces.

Five of the residents and 15 insurgents were killed, the military said. No U.S. or Iraqi troops were killed or seriously injured.

The airstrike involved U.S. helicopters and F-16 fighters, which dropped two 500-pound bombs, the military said.

The engagement involved some of the most intense fighting yet encountered by the fast-growing movement known as concerned local citizens, through which armed residents provide security against insurgents and militants for their towns, villages and neighborhoods. Yesterday's clash provided a promising test of how well the untrained force would work in concert with military units.

U.S. military also said yesterday that it will send 3,000 soldiers home from Diyala province in January as it continues to draw down the nearly 30,000 troops added to the U.S. forces in Iraq this year, Reuters reported. No new unit will replace the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division will expand its area to all of the province.

Doug Smith writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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