NBC News and news services
updated 5/28/2006 1:40:07 PM ET 2006-05-28T17:40:07

Search and rescue efforts continued Sunday for the crew of a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra helicopter, which crashed Saturday. Its two crew members remained missing in Anbar province, a volatile area west of the capital where insurgents are active. Hostile fire was not suspected as the cause of the crash, the U.S. military said.

A Marine spokesman told NBC News on Sunday that there was no new information on the crew's whereabouts.

The Marine helicopter went down while on a maintenance test flight and search and rescue efforts were under way for the missing crew members, the U.S. command said in a statement.

“We are using all the resources available to find our missing comrades,” said a Marine spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Salas.

The U.S. military also reported that a Marine was killed Friday by “enemy action” in Anbar province. The death raised to at least 2,466 the number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Deadly weekend
Saturday set the pace for a deadly weekend. More than 30 people were killed in attacks across Iraq, including four who died when a bomb in a parked car exploded near a busy bus station in southern Baghdad. Seven people also were wounded in the blast, which bloodied passers-by and damaged a local restaurant.

An Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot to death this week in Baghdad because they were wearing shorts, authorities said Saturday, reporting the latest in a series of recent attacks attributed to Islamic extremists.

Struggle to fill posts continues
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki again failed to find agreement from parliament Sunday on who should lead Iraq’s security agencies, a key step toward stabilizing the country.

Iraq’s political, ethnic and sectarian parties again failed to agree on who will run the interior and defense ministries. Al-Maliki had promised to find consensus within a few days of his Cabinet being sworn in just over a week ago, and there were hopes the prime minister would swear in the two new ministers as the 275-member parliament reconvened.

Al-Maliki’s spokesman, Yassin Majid, said if ongoing negotiations took much longer, the prime minister would ask the blocs to present three names for each ministry so he could decide.

“There is no deadline for that, but it could happen this week,” Majid said.

Shiite legislator Baha al-Araji expressed hope the posts could be filled “within three days.”

Hassan al-Sineid, a Shiite deputy who belongs to al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, also warned the prime minister may ask for a short list within three days, saying “there is no other choice.”

Dividing the spoils
Sunni Arab lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq emphasized the importance of finding neutral parties to fill the key posts. “It is very important that the persons who take over (the security ministries) should be independent and bold figures who will resist pressure from their political blocs,” he said.

The Shiite-dominated interior ministry has been promised to that community, while Sunni Arabs are to get defense. It is hoped the balance will enable al-Maliki to take over security around Iraq during the next 18 months and attract army recruits among Sunni Arabs, who make up the core of the insurgency.

During what appeared to be a stormy closed-door session, deputies argued over a demand by Shiite and Kurdish coalitions to curb the power of Sunni Arab parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. They seek a parliamentary regulation requiring him to consult his Shiite and Kurdish deputy speakers on decisions.

As the speaker has little authority, the demand — staunchly opposed by Sunnis — indicates the power struggle among Iraqi factions.

Iraq’s new Cabinet also met Sunday. Ministers discussed the security situation and plans to overcome problems with electricity and oil amid stark shortages.

Shiite Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani warned “the oil crisis will continue as long as terrorism and sabotage acts against oil pipelines continue.”

Spate of shootings
In developments from Saturday, according to police and hospital officials:

  • Two roadside bombings in Baghdad killed four policemen and wounded five people.
  • In four separate shootings in the capital, gunmen killed a garden store owner; a grocer; a taxi driver and his son; and the owner of a glass store.
  • Gunmen and Iraqi soldiers fought at a checkpoint west of Baghdad, killing a teacher caught in the crossfire.
  • Attackers ambushed the convoy of the office manager of the Diyala police chief south of Baqouba, wounding the colonel and killing five of his guards.
  • A former Iraqi army colonel and his nephew also were fatally shot near Baqouba.
  • In Baqouba, drive-by shooters killed four policemen and one civilian, while masked gunmen killed four workers and wounded another at a metalworking shop.
  • A policeman was shot to death and two officers were wounded north of Tikrit.
  • Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying college students from Mosul, killing one of the students.
  • A man suspected of belonging to Saddam’s former Fedayeen militia was slain west of Mosul.
  • The body of a man who had been shot in the chest was found floating in the Euphrates river near Hillah.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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