Five US Troops Killed In West Iraq

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A force of up to 2,500 US troops, supported by puppet Iraqi troops, moved into Iraq’s western Al Anbar province yesterday in the biggest offensive there this year.

A US military statement yesterday claimed that Operation River Gate is intended to stop al-Qaeda operating in the city of Haditha and two nearby towns, Haqlaniya and Barwana, and to ‘free the local citizens from the terrorists’ campaign of murder and intimidation’.

The US also confirmed yesterday that five US Marines were killed in fighting in western Iraq on Monday, taking to at least 1,945 the number of US troops killed since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

A US military statement said that one US Marine was killed by an improvised bomb in Karabila, near the Syrian border, during a major military operation called Operation Iron Fist.

Also, three US soldiers were killed by improvised bombs in Haqlaniya, in the western Anbar province.

A fifth soldier died of gunshots wounds near Taqaddum, the US military said, giving no details, but adding that the incident was under investigation.

In the south of the country, an Iraqi border guard spokesman in Najaf, Saadun al-Jaabari, said guards arrested ‘a terrorist group consisting of ten people, including one British national called Colin Peter, near Mathlum, near the Saudi border’ and nine Iraqis from Basra.

The group was armed with machine guns and was carrying a video camera, a satellite telephone, and GPS satellite-tracking device.

A British military spokesman said yesterday: ‘We can confirm that a UK national has been arrested by the Iraqi department of border enforcement.’

He added that the Foreign Office was investigating the incident which was believed to have happened on Monday night.

Tension was high in the capital Baghdad, as security forces prepared for possible insurgent attacks over Ramadan.

US and Iraqi security forces yesterday also sealed off a district of Ramadi, 110 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, which they began to search, the military said.

Some 400 puppet Iraqi and 500 US troops were engaged in Operation Mountaineers in the Tammin district ‘to disrupt insurgents in southern Ramadi who are transporting weapons and munitions into the city.’

Meanwhile it emerged that Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders have been fixing the outcome of the coming national referendum on the new puppet constitution.

They have quietly adopted a rule change whereby the constitution will fail to get adopted only if two-thirds of registered voters reject it in three of Iraq’s provinces – instead of two-thirds of actual voters in three provinces as originally decided.

Sunni party representatives called the move ‘a mockery of democracy’.

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HUGE LONDON BUS AND TUBE FARE RISES

London Mayor Ken Livingstone yesterday announced huge increases in bus and Tube fares for passengers who pay cash from 2 January 2006.

In a bid to make more passengers pay in advance, the cash fare for a single journey in the central Tube Zone 1 will go up from £2 to £3.

The cash price of a single journey from Zone 1 to Zones 5 or 6 will be £4.

And bus cash fares will be increased from £1.20 to £1.50.

Livingstone said there will be reductions for pre-pay Oyster card users.

A pre-paid Zone 1 Tube journey will cost £1.50, instead of the current £2 cash price.

And Oyster card users will have their bus fares frozen at £1 in the morning rush hour and 80p at other times.

But seven-day bus passes for all journeys are going up by a huge £2.50 to £13.50.

Mainline rail passengers will be unable to take advantage of pre-pay reductions when continuing journeys by Tube or bus.

The mainline rail operating companies have refused to introduce the scheme.

Rail passengers will be obliged to pay for the dearer combined rail, Tube and bus Travel Cards.