BAGHDAD – Insurgents detonated a roadside bomb at an Iraqi checkpoint south of the capital Saturday, killing seven national guard soldiers and wounding two more, in the latest attacks against forces of the new Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.
Meanwhile, west of Baghdad, a U.S. Marine died of wounds suffered the day before during operations in Anbar province, the military said. The Marine was the fourth to die this month in Anbar, a Sunni-dominated area that includes Fallujah, Ramadi and Qaim that has been a hotbed of anti-U.S. resistance.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's (search) new government is considering offering amnesty to Iraqi insurgents who fought the U.S.-led occupation, perhaps even pardoning those who killed Americans.
A spokesman for Allawi said fighting with U.S. troops was "justified" as resistance to occupation.
"If he (a guerrilla) was in opposition against the Americans, that will be justified because it was an occupation force," spokesman Georges Sada said. "We will give them freedom."
Sada added that details of an amnesty were still being worked out and a full pardon for insurgents who killed Americans is not a certainty. The main thrust is to "start everything from new" by giving a second chance to rebel fighters who hand in their weapons and swear off the insurgency, he said.
In Baghdad, U.S. forces said they'd uncovered a bomb-making facility and detained dozens of people believed linked to an insurgent cell alleged to have been planting roadside bombs in the area.
During the operation, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division discovered several assembled bombs, four vehicles they believed were to be rigged as car bombs, several automatic weapons, ammunition, explosives and $8,750.
The discovery led soldiers to a string of other sites, where they discovered hidden weapons caches filled with partially assembled bombs and other weapons, the military said.
U.S. troops and their allies are hit nearly every day by roadside bombs. More than a dozen car bombs killed scores of people in the country last month.
"These discoveries deal a blow to anti-Iraqi forces," Lt. Col. James Hutton, the spokesman for the 1st Cavalry, said in a statement.
In the southern city of Basra (search), one British soldier was wounded and two military vehicles damaged when a roadside bomb exploded at 9:15 a.m., a British military spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
Elsewhere, an Iraqi police officer was killed when insurgents attacked a checkpoint with small arms fire in the northern city of Mosul on Friday, the U.S. military said in a statement Saturday.
The seven Iraqi national guardsmen were killed at the checkpoint early Saturday were stationed in Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. officials said.
In southern Iraq, one of the country's two main southern pipelines was breached Saturday, but there was no suspicion of sabotage and Iraq's oil flow was unaffected, a British military spokesman said.
The breach in the 42-inch pipeline, six miles south of Zubayr, was discovered Saturday morning. The British military was investigating the cause of the breach, the official said.
The U.S. military gave no details of its operations in Anbar province or how the Marine was killed. But in Ramadi, an angry crowd of Iraqis held a funeral procession in the streets Saturday, carrying four wooden coffins containing what they said were four Iraqi youths killed in the morning by U.S. tank fire.
The U.S. military called the report "unsubstantiated."
About 160,000 foreign troops, mostly American, have stayed on after Monday's handover of sovereignty to the new interim government.
The foreign troops operate under a U.N. Security Council resolution that gives them responsibility for security. Though deployed under a U.N. mandate, they operate as a coalition led by U.S. commanders.
Despite the handover, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) has urged his followers to continue attacks on foreign forces, saying they continue to occupy Iraq.
"I plead to the Iraqi people to continue to reject occupation and demand independence," he said in a sermon -- read on his behalf Friday by his supporter Jaber Khafaji -- in the town of Kufa.
Jordan and Yemen have offered to send troops to help shore up security, but Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari gave a lukewarm response Saturday, repeating the government's stance that Iraq would consider an offer by non-neighboring Arab countries.
"We welcome Arab contributions to support and reinforce stability in Iraq, but there are several means and ways to extend a helping hand," Zebari said.
No Arab nation has contributed soldiers to the U.S.-led coalition, but Jordan has offered to help. Yemen also extended an offer Friday but later said it was conditional on the withdrawal of all coalition troops. Bahrain also offered to send troops.
Late Friday, Iraq's deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati called on France and Germany to help build and train his country's security forces.
"We need to build a new army and we need to build security forces and police," al-Bayati said in an interview Friday with Al-Arabiya television. "We also need training for these institutions. The NATO countries, especially Germany and France, are important countries and we need the help from these countries."
At a summit last week in Istanbul, Turkey, NATO leaders offered military training to the new Iraqi government. However, France and Germany, which had strongly opposed the Iraq war, rejected the U.S. notion that an alliance training mission could develop into a NATO presence in the Iraq.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted that any training must be outside Iraq.
Al-Bayati argued that getting help from the French and the Germans was something that was more important for the Iraqis than for the Americans.
"We want balanced relations with all the countries of the world, and we are seeking the help of the international community to build a new Iraq built on democracy and respect for human rights," al-Bayati said.
Saturday's violence was the latest in a series of attacks on U.S.-led coalition targets, their allies and the new government.
On Friday, guerrillas launched at least three separate rocket strikes but caused little serious damage in Baghdad.
Also Friday, American forces also clashed with insurgents in the northern city of Beji on Friday, killing two and wounding a third.
In the United States, three U.S. soldiers were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the drowning of an Iraqi detainee who was shoved off a bridge near Baghdad in January, the military said.
A fourth soldier faces charges for allegedly pushing a second Iraqi into the same river, the Tigris, in the city of Samarra. That man survived.