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Fighting in Iraq kills 3 U.S. troops, interpreter

February 24, 2009|Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Three U.S. soldiers and an interpreter were killed Monday in fighting northeast of the Iraqi capital, the military announced. The statement did not provide details of the incident in Diyala province.

According to the independent website icasualties.org, at least 4,250 members of the U.S. military have died in the war since it began in March 2003.

Iraq's Interior Ministry, meanwhile, announced the breakup of a Shiite police gang accused of killing the Sunni vice president's sister in 2006 as part of a string of kidnappings and slayings.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said the 12 people arrested were former ministry employees. The Interior Ministry has been accused of past infiltration by Shiite militias that carried out some of the worst of the nation's sectarian violence.

The sister of Vice President Tariq Hashimi, Maysoun Hashimi, died in a hail of bullets on April 27, 2006, as she left her home in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iraq's restored National Museum reopened Monday for a VIP tour, nearly six years after looters carried away priceless antiquities.

The museum, which holds artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods, will be open to the public starting today, but only for organized tours at first, officials said.

The museum, which was once home to one of the world's leading collections of artifacts, fell victim to bands of armed thieves who rampaged through the capital after U.S. troops captured Baghdad in April 2003.

Eventually, about 8,500 items were recovered in an international effort.

Of the roughly 7,000 pieces still missing, about 40 to 50 are considered to be of great historical importance, according to the U.N. cultural body UNESCO.

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