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Rice Says New Offensive Against Insurgents 'Off to a Good Start'


Rice made her comments today during an unannounced visit to Iraq. Her airplane circled Baghdad for 30 minutes before landing because of military operations in the capital.

A US spokesman says Rice will confer with officials in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone before departing for a scheduled trip to Jerusalem.

US military officials say the new US and Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad has led to a significant reduction in the number and effectiveness of attacks in the capital.

But in northern Iraq today, two car bombs killed at least nine people and wounded 60 others in a crowded market in Kirkuk. A suicide bomber caused one of the explosions.

Also today, the US military said a marine died in combat operations Friday in western al-Anbar province.

The Defense Department announced on Friday that it is sending an army headquarters staff of about 1,000 soldiers to Iraq in March, three months ahead of schedule. That staff will help manage the additional combat troops being sent to Baghdad.

Information for this story is provided by AP, AFP, and Kurdish Service

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