Italian Troops Hand Over Province to Iraqis

Iraqi forces have formally assumed responsibility for security in southern Dhi Qar province, the second of 18 Iraqi provinces to pass to local control.

Iraqi forces took over Thursday from the Italian contingent of the Multi-National Force, with Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi joining Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the handover ceremony at the regional capital of Nasiriyah.

In a statement, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, called the transfer "an important milestone" toward a stable Iraq.

Bombings and sectarian killings continued throughout Iraq. In Baghdad, gunmen attacked a police station in the city's upscale Mansur district, killing six officers and wounding one other.

The U.S. military reported that an American soldier died in a roadside bombing in the capital.

A top U.S. commander in Iraq, Major General William Caldwell, said on Wednesday that attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq have increased in September.

A United Nations report released Wednesday said nearly 6,600 Iraqis were killed in July and August, with more than half of them killed in July. The figure is much higher than the previous two months.

The U.S. commander said he expects attacks to increase further during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin Saturday

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.