Baghdad

Iraqi authorities claim 250 extremists dead

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces killed about 250 militants in a daylong battle near Najaf aimed at preventing attacks on religious pilgrims during major Shiite rituals, Iraqi authorities said.

Iraqi officials said a U.S. helicopter crashed during the battle, which began early yesterday when Iraqi forces attacked militants about 12 miles northeast of Najaf.

Col. Ali Nomas, spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Najaf, said more than 250 corpses had been found at the scene. Army Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi also spoke of 250 dead but said an exact number would be released today.

Provincial officials said the gunmen planned to attack Shiite pilgrims and clerics during ceremonies marking Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th century death of Imam Hussein. His death began the schism between Sunnis and Shiites.

Davenport, Iowa

Clinton to Bush: all troops out of Iraq by January 2009

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be “the height of irresponsibility” to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

“This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy,” the Democratic senator from New York said in her initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

The White House condemned Clinton’s comments as a partisan attack that undermines U.S. soldiers.

“The height of irresponsibility,” White House spokesman Rob Saliterman said, “would be to cap our troop numbers at an arbitrary figure and to cut off their funding.”

Little Rock, Ark.

Huckabee begins bid for White House in 2008

Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a favorite of conservatives, will take the first step in a 2008 presidential bid, an official told The Associated Press on Friday.

Huckabee, 51, plans to file papers today establishing an exploratory committee that will allow him to raise money and hire campaign staff, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement.

Huckabee faces difficult odds as he enters a crowded Republican field topped by better-known, better-funded candidates like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Jerusalem

Israeli president asks for time to clear name

Israeli President Moshe Katsav rebuffed growing calls for his resignation yesterday.

Katsav asked parliament to temporarily suspend him from office while he fought to clear his name. But momentum was building for lawmakers to open unprecedented impeachment proceedings against the president, and top officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, urged Katsav to stop clinging to office and allow the nation to heal.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

Notable Number

670

Number of Super Nintendo games for sale in an eBay.com auction. According to the listing, every game ever made for the system is included. As of last night, the high bid was $8,285 – up from an opening bid of $12.50. The auction closes on Saturday. The collection includes such classics as Othello, Paper Boy and Jaws.

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