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ROCKETS LAND IN GREEN ZONE, TESTING MILITIA'S CEASE-FIRE

A U.S. official says there were no casualties.

A barrage of rockets hit Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on Saturday, casting doubt on the status of a Shiite militia cease-fire fewer than 24 hours after it was renewed.

At least six blasts resonated across the U.S.-protected enclave, which is home to Iraqi government offices, the U.S. Embassy and military bases. An American official said there were no casualties and no significant damage.

The attack was the fourth rocket barrage last week in the capital, where U.S. commanders have touted a more than 60 percent decline in violence since June.

Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, blamed the previous attacks on breakaway factions of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's powerful Mahdi militia, groups that U.S. commanders allege receive support and direction from Iran. There was no immediate comment on who might be behind the new Green Zone attack.

The attacks took place despite a six-month truce declared by Sadr in August and renewed Friday in a much-anticipated announcement read in mosques during midday prayers. The attacks raised questions about the anti-American cleric's ability to rein in the splinter groups, which have ignored his order to stand down.

Many in Sadr's movement are disgruntled with the truce, which they say has been used by the U.S. military and Shiite rivals within the Iraqi security forces to target his followers. Mahdi militia members helped drive the sectarian killing that once left dozens of bodies in the streets every day.

U.S. officials say Sadr's cease-fire played a key part in the ebb in violence since the American forces completed a buildup of 28,500 additional troops, most of whom are due to leave this year. They also credit a rebellion by tens of thousands of Sunni Arab tribesmen against the Islamic extremists they once backed.

In other developments Saturday, at least four people drowned when a boat carrying Shiite pilgrims to Karbala for a religious festival capsized in the Tigris River north of Kut, police said. Rescue efforts continued for two others missing in the accident.

More than 4-million pilgrims have converged on Karbala for Arbaeen rites, which mark the 40th day of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures.

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Turkish attack: Turkish forces pressed their largest ground offensive against Kurdish separatist guerrillas in years, pounding rebel targets along Iraq's frigid northern border with artillery and helicopter gunfire. The Turkish military command claimed that as many as 79 rebels had been killed along with seven of its troops since the incursion began Thursday night. Ahmed Denis, a rebel spokesman, declined to confirm the number of Kurdish casualties, but said they had recovered the bodies of 15 Turkish soldiers. He also claimed they shot down a Turkish helicopter Saturday. Neither side's account could be verified independently.

Australian ties: At a meeting in Canberra, Australia's capital, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and top Australian officials insisted Saturday that the security alliance between the United States and Australia had not frayed despite Australia's recent pledge to remove all combat forces from Iraq.

Times wires

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