23 killed as U.S. troops, Shiite fighters clash
Shiite militiamen battled American troops Friday in two cities, killing at least 23 Iraqis, including six members of one family.
A 2-year-old-girl and her cousins, boys ages 4 and 5, were among the dead, killed in a bomb explosion as they slept.
Also Friday, gunmen killed two journalists from Polish television -- a Pole and a dual Algerian-Polish national -- as they drove south of Baghdad.
U.S. troops clashed with the al-Mahdi Army in Najaf and in the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles to the north.
Coalition planes dropped leaflets over Karbala, calling for the Jamiya neighborhood to be evacuated so troops could clear it of militiamen. "These operations will soon be over," the messages said. "We thank you for your patience."
Female soldier charged with abusing prisoners
Army Pfc. Lynndie England, shown in photographs smiling and pointing at naked Iraqi prisoners, was charged Friday by the military with assaulting the detainees and conspiring to mistreat them.
England is the seventh soldier from an Army Reserve military police unit to be charged.
Earlier Friday, England's relatives insisted she was following orders when she posed for the pictures, including one in which she held a leash attached to a nude Iraqi man's neck.
England, 21, is accused of "assaulting Iraqi detainees on multiple occasions;" conspiring with another soldier, Spc. Charles Graner, to mistreat the prisoners; committing an indecent act; and committing acts "that were prejudicial to good order and discipline and were of nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces through her mistreatment of Iraqi detainees."
England's family said she was four months pregnant with Graner's child.
Former Iraqi captive expected home today
Former Iraq captive Thomas Hamill will be released from a hospital in Germany in time to return to Mississippi early today, a Macon city spokeswoman said Friday.
Josie Harvey, secretary to Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines, said Hamill's wife, Kellie, had called City Hall about 8:30 a.m. to confirm their arrival at an airport in Meridian.
Harvey said officials had no other details.
Hamill, 44, escaped his Iraqi captors Sunday and has been treated for an arm injury at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Hamill was wounded when his convoy was ambushed April 9.
Rice: U.S. must be open, firm to repair its image
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Friday the U.S. could mend its damaged image in Iraq by dealing openly and firmly with those responsible for the abuse of war prisoners.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, she acknowledged the revelations of prisoner abuse were "very disturbing" and a setback for the Iraq campaign.
"I do believe how it's handled can demonstrate to the people of Iraq and perhaps to the people of the Middle East the essential difference between a democracy and a dictatorship," she said. "In democracies, young soldiers say when abuse like that takes place."
She added: "Nobody ever said human beings are perfect because they're in a democracy. The difference is that in a democratic system, acts like these are exposed and dealt with."