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Iraq Transition

22 bodies found in Baghdad

Operation Swarmer offensive yields scores of detentions

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Smoke rises above Baghdad from a car bomb explosion Saturday that wounded two people.

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OPERATION SWARMER

Target: Insurgents operating northeast of Samarra
Forces: Initially, 1,500 Iraqi and coalition troops, 200-plus tactical vehicles, 50-plus aircraft
Outlook: Operation expected to continue for days, with thorough searches planned
Results: Weapons caches already found, including stocks of artillery shells, explosives and bomb-making materials, as well as military uniforms

Source: U.S. Defense Department

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi police and soldiers found the bodies of 22 people in Baghdad on Saturday who were shot in the head and showed signs of torture, security forces said.

The bodies were found in different neighborhoods and could not be immediately identified.

In other developments Saturday, 60 people arrested in the U.S.-Iraqi military sweep north of Samarra remained in custody out of 80 who were initially detained, according to a spokesman for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. The 20 had been released.

The U.S. military said it had confiscated weapons in Operation Swarmer, but reported no casualties or firefights. (Watch what is being considered a 'quiet' operation -- 1:54)

The operation, which began at dawn Thursday with 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops, is targeting villages in a rural area of Salaheddin province, where insurgents are believed to be based, according to Iraqi security sources.

The region is sparsely populated farmland northeast of Samarra, where the Askariya Mosque, a Shiite shrine, was bombed last month. The February 22 attack set off a wave of Shiite reprisals and Sunni counter-reprisals that caused hundreds of deaths and strikes on mosques, sparking fears of full-blown civil warfare.

By Friday, the number of U.S. and Iraqi forces had decreased to 900.

The Pentagon has called it the largest air assault operation in Iraq since U.S.-led forces attacked -- exactly three years ago this coming Monday.

Pilgrims, Iraqi soldiers wounded

Roadside bombings in Baghdad wounded 16 people, including a group of Shiite pilgrims walking south to Karbala, Baghdad emergency police said.

Nine pilgrims were wounded by the 8 a.m. blast, police said.

They were observing the Shiite holy day of Arbaeen, the end of the 40-day period commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. That day falls on Monday -- also the third anniversary of the war in Iraq.

At the same time, another roadside bomb in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Mustansriya exploded, wounding five Iraqi soldiers as their patrol was passing by, police said.

Two civilians were wounded in a separate car bomb attack in central Baghdad.

U.S. soldiers killed

Three U.S. soldiers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were killed Thursday in the north-central region of Iraq. They were not involved in Operation Swarmer, the U.S. military reported.

One was killed while manning an observation post in Samarra; the other two were killed in an indirect fire attack at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, northwest of Tikrit, the U.S. military said.

Another U.S. soldier was wounded in that second attack.

The deaths bring the number of U.S. troops killed in the war to 2,316, according to U.S. military reports.

Break in journalist's killing?

Six people detained during an Iraqi army operation in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad have confessed to killing a top local journalist, an Iraqi Defense Ministry official told CNN Saturday.

Amjad Hamid Hassan, the director of the state-owned TV station Iraqiya, was killed, along with his driver, in a drive-by shooting last week in western Baghdad.

Two others are being sought in the killing, the official said.

Other developments

  • The third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion prompted anti-war marches and rallies around the world Saturday. (Details)
  • President Bush, in his radio address Saturday, marked the third-year anniversary of the day the U.S. invaded Iraq by urging Americans to be patient and political leaders in Iraq to create a unity government. Democrats, meanwhile, used their address to call for more leadership from Bush to prevent Iraq from heading toward civil war. (Full story)
  • A U.S. military investigation into the deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians last year also includes a probe into the deaths of several children, CNN learned Friday. (Full story)
  • U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, operating on a tip, detained 16 insurgents and confiscated weapons in a raid in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Friday, the U.S. military said.
  • CNN's Mohammad Tawfeeq, Mike Mount and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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