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Old 01-20-2004, 03:00 PM   #121
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Old 01-22-2004, 09:41 AM   #122
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BAGHDAD, Iraq - A barrage of mortar fire struck a U.S. military encampment in central Iraq , killing two American soldiers and critically wounding a third, the military said Thursday.

In separate incidents, gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying Iraqi women who worked in the laundry at a U.S. military base, killing four of them, and the security chief of Spanish troops was wounded during a raid south of the capital.

Also Thursday, gunmen firing from a van killed two Iraqi policemen and wounded three others in an attack on a checkpoint between Fallujah and Ramadi, and the 23-year-old son of a former senior official from Saddam Hussein's Baath party was slain by an unidentified attacker in the southern city of Basra, police said.

Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, said insurgents fired mortars and rockets at a U.S. military encampment outside the town of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, on Wednesday evening, killing the two soldiers and critically wounding another.

The three soldiers were standing outside the tactical operations center when the barrage hit, she said. The attack also damaged vehicles.

U.S. forces launched a counterattack but there was no indication the insurgents were hit, she said.

The two deaths raised to 505 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the U.S.-led coalition launched the Iraq war March 20.

The attack on the laundry workers took place Wednesday in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, when the nine women were being driven to work, said Khajiq Serkis, the driver who was shot in the leg.

He told The Associated Press from his hospital bed that he was part of a three-car convoy being chased by the four attackers in a Opel sedan, their faces covered by scarves. Serkis said his minibus lagged behind and the gunmen shot the tires before firing indiscriminately at the occupants.

Four women were killed and the other five were injured in addition to Serkis, said police Col. Sabbar Fadhel.

Most of the women were dozing when the shooting started, said a survivor, Vera Ibrahim, 39.

All the victims, who were Armenian or Assyrian Christians, worked at a nearby U.S. military base in Habbaniyah. The women worked in the laundry and Serkis was employed as a mechanic and driver.

"If they were real men, they would have attacked men ... not poor women," said Seita Noubar, a sister of one of the victims, Sona Noubar, 50.

Former Baath party members and other Saddam loyalists are believed to be behind most of the guerrilla attacks against the U.S.-led coalition forces, often setting off car bombs and roadside explosives that have killed hundreds of Iraqi men and women.

In the city of Diwaniya, 120 miles south of Baghdad, Spanish Civil Guard commander Gonzalo Perez Garcia was shot in the head Thursday after a pre-dawn raid with Iraqi police at the home of a suspected terrorist leader, according to a Spanish Defense Ministry statement in Madrid. He was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad in a serious condition.

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Old 01-25-2004, 04:29 PM   #123
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A U.S. military helicopter crashed Sunday in the Tigris River in the northern town of Mosul while searching for a soldier, and both crewmembers were missing, a spokeswoman said.

The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter was searching for a U.S. soldier missing when the boat he was in capsized earlier Sunday, the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity. The soldier was on a river patrol with three other soldiers and some Iraqi policemen, she said.

The other three soldiers were safe but two Iraqi police officers and an iraqi translator are reported dead, said the spokeswoman.

She did not say what caused the crash of the helicopter, attached to the 101st Airborne Division.

She said the search for the two pilots is under way, as well as an investigation into the crash in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Also Sunday, U.S. soldiers arrested nearly 50 people and confiscated weapons in several raids in Iraq's volatile Sunni Triangle after a series of bombings that killed six U.S. soldiers.

A U.S. soldier died Sunday of wounds suffered in a grenade attack on his Bradley vehicle that was patrolling a central Iraqi town of Beiji the day before, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Five other U.S. soldiers were killed in separate bombings and a blast that narrowly missed an American convoy killed four Iraqis and wounded about 40 others in a bloody day of attacks on Saturday.

The deaths raised to 513 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the United States and its allies launched the Iraq war March 20. Most of the deaths have occurred since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.

The violence underscores continued resistance to the American occupation that is strongest in the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad, despite the Dec. 13 capture of Saddam Hussein.

On Sunday, U.S. soldiers raided several locations in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital, and captured 46 people including three men suspected of involvement in anti-coalition activities, Aberle said. The remaining 43 were detained for possessing weapons without authorization, she said.

In Mukayshifa, a town south of Tikrit, soldiers raided a house Saturday and confiscated 220 hand grenades, Aberle said.

Insurgents fired the rocket propelled grenade at the Bradley in the town of Beiji, north of Tikrit, late Saturday, piercing the driver's compartment and critically wounding the soldier. The soldier was evacuated to a military hospital, where he died.

A second Bradley fighting vehicle returned fire toward the area from where the grenade was launched, and soldiers later captured six men who were in the possession of a grenade launcher, Aberle said.

In Khaldiyah, some 70 miles west of Baghdad, three U.S. soldiers were killed and six more were wounded Saturday when a vehicle, possibly driven by a suicide bomber, exploded at a U.S. checkpoint near a bridge across the Euphrates river, the U.S. command said.

Iraqi witnesses said a four-wheel-drive vehicle drove up to the checkpoint and exploded in front of a U.S. Army Humvee trying to block it. At least eight Iraqis - six of them women - were injured, according to Dr. Ahmed Nasrat Jabouri of the provincial hospital in nearby Ramadi.

Two other U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that struck their four-vehicle convoy north of Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city near Khaldiyah in a center of anti-American resistance.

A fourth attack took place when a truck bomb exploded Saturday morning near government buildings in Samarra, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, barely missing a U.S. military police patrol as it turned into a police station compound.

The blast killed four Iraqi civilians and wounded about 40 people, including seven American soldiers who were cut by flying glass inside one of the buildings. The Americans' wounds were not life-threatening.

The explosion set fire to a half-dozen cars parked near the buildings, which included a police station and municipal offices, and gouged a large crater in the street. The burned-out hulks of the cars - some reduced to mounds of twisted metal - smoldered in the damp, chilly air hours after the blast.


Associated Press Writer Paul Garwood contributed to this report from Tikrit.
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Old 01-27-2004, 11:43 AM   #124
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NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD, Associated Press Writer

KHALDIYAH, Iraq - A roadside bomb exploded next to a passing U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad Tuesday followed by a second bomb when reinforcements arrived, witnesses said. Three American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said the casualties occurred in a "large explosion," but gave no other details.

He said three American soldiers and one Iraqi civilian were killed and several Iraqis were injured. Hospital staff, however, put the Iraqi death toll at two.

"One of our units was ambushed near Fallujah...involving two coalition vehicles," the military spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Khaldiyah and Fallujah are part of the Sunni Triangle, the area in central Iraq where most of the anti-U.S. attacks by die-hard Saddam Hussein loyalists have taken place.
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Old 01-27-2004, 05:28 PM   #125
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13 killed in 5 separate attacks in Iraq

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 Posted: 5:11 PM EST (2211 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Five attacks claimed the lives of 13 people in Iraq Tuesday, including six U.S. soldiers, two CNN employees, four Iraqi policemen and an Iraqi civilian, according to police and military sources.

Three Combined Joint Task Force 7 soldiers were killed and three were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Iskandariyah at 8 p.m. (noon ET) Tuesday.

They were traveling in a convoy when their vehicle struck the device. The wounded soldiers were evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital.

In Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian at about 1 p.m. (5 a.m. ET), a U.S. military spokesman said. One U.S. soldier and three Iraqis were wounded in the blast, the spokesman said.

Khaldiyah is between Fallujah and Ramadi, and also lies in the Sunni Triangle. The military said it is investigating the attack.

On the outskirts of Baghdad Tuesday, two CNN employees were killed and a third was wounded when the cars they were traveling in came under fire. They were returning to Baghdad in a two-car convoy from an assignment in the southern city of Hillah when they were ambushed on the outskirts of the city.

Translator/producer Duraid Isa Mohammed and driver Yasser Khatab died of multiple gunshot wounds. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie, in the other vehicle, was grazed in the head by a bullet.(Full story)

In the holy Shiite city of Karbala, an Iraqi policeman was killed and two others were wounded Tuesday when assailants drove up to the headquarters of Polish coalition troops and opened fire, according to police sources.

In Ramadi, gunmen shot dead three additional Iraqi police officers Tuesday outside a police station, according to U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

Kimmitt also said coalition operations were ongoing throughout Iraq to make arrests and seize weapons. In raids in Bayji, "three armed attackers were killed when they confronted coalition soldiers as soldiers raided four locations," Kimmitt said.

He said the soldiers "were attempting to capture individuals who were suspected members of Mohammed's Army, an anti-coalition cell operating in the area. The soldiers captured five personnel, involving three targets."

Over the weekend, five U.S. soldiers and four Iraqi civilians were killed in three separate bomb attacks in the Sunni Triangle, U.S. military officials said. Also, three attacks in a 24-hour period between January 21 and 22 in the area killed nine people, including two U.S. soldiers. (Full story)

Since the war began in Iraq in March, 518 U.S. soldiers have been killed, according to military figures -- 361 in what the military describes as "hostile." After President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, 379 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq -- 246 of them in hostile circumstances.

U.N. election help headed to Iraq
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he is ready to send a mission to Iraq to decide if and when elections can be held.

Annan said he has concluded "that the United Nations can play a constructive role in helping to break the current impasse" over whether to hold direct elections or caucuses to choose a transitional national assembly. (Full story)

Annan said the ability of the Coalition Provisional Authority to provide adequate security is a key factor in the decision.

Most U.N. staff pulled out of Iraq in October, two months after a bomb attack on its Baghdad headquarters killed 22 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. (Full story)

Other developments
• In Baghdad, a gang claiming to be from an Islamic party took over a Red Crescent office Tuesday in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood, and at least one staffer was wounded in the incident, a Red Crescent official told CNN. Iraqi police were at the scene.

• Also in Baghdad, the military said authorities who were checking a car for explosives near Iraq Governing Council offices Tuesday did not find a bomb, reversing a previous military report that explosives had been found. According to the military, the car went through a checkpoint, and a bomb-sniffing dog indicated it might contain explosives. The area was cordoned off and soldiers did not find explosives.

• Late Monday, a rocket struck an open parking lot in central Baghdad's "Green Zone," where the coalition is headquartered. U.S. military officials said no one was injured, and there was no damage to property.
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Old 01-31-2004, 03:41 PM   #126
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Three U.S. soldiers among dead in 2 bombings

Saturday, January 31, 2004 Posted: 3:40 PM EST (2040 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two bombings in Iraq on Saturday killed 12 people, including three American soldiers, and wounded at least 45 others, according to the U.S. military and news agency reports.

A car bomb exploded early Saturday, which was payday at a police station in the northern Iraq of Mosul. The blast killed nine people and wounded at least 45 others, according to news agency reports.

There were no U.S. casualties, said U.S. Army Maj. Trey Cate. Fire and rescue teams are on the scene as well U.S. forces, Cate said.

Also Saturday, a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. Army convoy traveling between the northeast Iraqi towns of Tikrit and Kirkuk killed three U.S. soldiers.

A military spokesman told CNN the attack on soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division happened 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Kirkuk. The deaths bring to 524 the number of U.S. forces killed in the Iraq war, including 366 from hostile fire.

Witnesses to the Mosul attack told The Associated Press they saw severed limbs and decapitated bodies in the street in front of the police station after the explosion. The police station was crowded when the bomb detonated, police Lt. Mohammed Fadil told the AP.

Some witnesses told the AP it appeared that a car drove through a security barricade in front of the police station before exploding.

One policeman said the blast was so powerful that there were casualties inside the police station building.

The police station is next to the University of Mosul campus. Mosul is about 225 (362 kilometers) miles northwest of Baghdad.

On Saturday night, a blast rocked a densely populated Baghdad neighborhood southeast of the city center. An eyewitness said two rockets slammed into the neigbhborhood, an enclave long populated by Palestinian refugees, and he said he believes there were a number of casualties.

The attacks occurred a day before the start of the four-day Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, a major Muslim holiday.

The latest bombings come after the United Nations said Friday that it expects to send advisers to Iraq shortly to assess the feasibility of direct elections before the country regains its sovereignty. (Full story)

A U.N. team arrived Tuesday to evaluate security for electoral advisers, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cited assurances on their security from the U.S.-led coalition.

"The coalition has indicated to me that they will do the maximum to protect the teams that are going to work in Iraq, so I think that, from here, in a few days, the teams will be ready to travel and to start work," Annan said in Brussels, Belgium.

The United States has said it isn't practical to hold direct elections for a transitional national assembly before a sovereign Iraqi government takes control June 30. The Americans have suggested a caucus-style plan to choose the legislature by the end of May.

But Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and others have staunchly favored direct elections.

A U.S. military official predicts the walk-up to independence could spawn more violence in Iraq.

"As we get closer to Iraqi sovereignty, we expect to see an uptick in the amount of violence that we have in the country of which we are fully prepared to handle," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.

Other developments
• NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he believes the Atlantic alliance would be open to a request for a greater military commitment in Iraq once the country regains its sovereignty. In his first visit to the United States since assuming his post in January, Scheffer said he and President Bush discussed a possible greater NATO role after Iraq achieves independence. (Full story)

• Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told the AP an independent investigation is needed to look into apparent intelligence failures on Iraq's weapons capabilities as well as flawed estimates on Iraq, North Korea and Libya. Former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay told a Senate panel this week no large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The Bush administration had cited such weapons as a key reason in going to war. (Full story)

• Iraqi authorities plan to investigate allegations of illegal oil trade between Saddam Hussein's regime and other countries, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council said. Naseir al-Chadirchi said Thursday that authorities have documents allegedly looted from government ministries after Saddam's fall indicating deals apparently made outside of international strictures placed on the country's oil trade.
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Old 02-01-2004, 08:25 AM   #127
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IRBIL, Iraq - Two suicide bombers struck the offices of two rival Kurdish parties in near-simultaneous attacks Sunday as hundreds of Iraqis gathered to celebrate a Muslim holiday. At least 57 people were killed and more than 235 were wounded, officials said. One Kurdish minister said the death toll could exceed 100.

The attack was believed to be the deadliest since an Aug. 29 car bombing in the holy city of Najaf killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and more than 100 others as they emerged from Friday prayers.

The attack also was believed to have been the first in which the suicide attackers wired bombs to themselves and detonated them while on foot, akin to the suicide attacks by Palestinian militants in Israel.

There have been a multitude of suicide car bombings in Iraq .

Also Sunday, about 20 Iraqis were killed when they accidentally set off an explosion while looting a munitions dump in the Polish-controlled south-central region of the country, a spokesman for Polish-led international peacekeepers said.

The blast occurred after midnight in the desert about 112 miles southwest of Karbala after Iraqis broke into the munitions storage site, military spokesman Col. Robert Strzelecki said. Karbala is about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad. U.S. military officials had no information on the blast.

The dump, formerly used by Saddam Hussein's army, consists of about 100 bunkers spread over a wide area and contained munitions such as artillery shells and rockets, he said.

"I suspect that those people who entered the bunkers probably wanted to steal the munition and sell it, perhaps to terrorist groups," Strzelecki told The Associated Press. "I think it was caused by human negligence."

Dozens, if not hundreds, of Iraqis have been killed in recent months while looting munitions dumps.
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Old 02-01-2004, 12:34 PM   #128
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Feb 1, 1:08 PM (ET)

TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) - An American soldier was killed and 12 wounded in a rocket attack Sunday on an Army base in central Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The rocket landed inside a logistics support base of the 4th Infantry Division in Balad, 50 miles south of the division's headquarters in Tikrit, an Army statement said.

It said two of the injured soldiers were in serious condition. After the attack, troops detained 16 people including four women for questioning, the statement said.

Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, is part of the Sunni Triangle, where most of the anti-U.S. insurgency has taken place.

The death raised to 523 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the conflict in Iraq.

Deaths due to hostile fire since the war started March 20, 2003 now total 367.
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Old 02-03-2004, 06:45 PM   #129
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CNN TV News has just reported that a US soldier deactivating a bomb was killed in Iraq today, February 3. This brings total hostile fire deaths to 368.
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:47 PM   #130
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February 05, 2004

Soldier killed in mortar attack

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Insurgents fired a mortar Thursday at a checkpoint near Baghdad International Airport, killing one soldier and wounding another, the U.S. command said.
The attack occurred about 2:15 p.m. outside the airport, which serves as a major American military base.

No further details were released.

The latest death brings to 529 the number of U.S.. service members who have died since the Iraq conflict began March 20. Most of those deaths occurred after President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1.
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Old 02-06-2004, 08:32 AM   #131
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Old 02-08-2004, 04:47 PM   #132
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GI Dies As Iraq Insurgents Attack Convoys
2 hours, 55 minutes ago

By VIJAY JOSHI, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents attacked U.S. Army convoys in three areas, killing one soldier and wounding three others Sunday, witnesses and the U.S. command said.

Elsewhere, a U.N. team met with Iraqi leaders Sunday to discuss the chances of holding early legislative elections, and its leader pledged to do "everything possible" to help the country regain its sovereignty.

Meanwhile, a bomb planted inside a police station killed three policemen and injured 11 others on Saturday, officials said. In southeastern Iraq (news - web sites), about 90 Japanese soldiers began their controversial humanitarian mission. They are the first Japanese troops in a combat zone since World War II.

Also, Prince Charles made a surprise visit to British troops in the southern city of Basra on Sunday amid tight security, the first member of the royal family to visit the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

Charles — wearing desert camouflage combats, sturdy boots and a black beret — met more than 200 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and thanked them for their work in Iraq.

Elsewhere, Iraqi workers unearthed a mass grave containing the remains of at least 50 people.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and his team held talks for about two hours with members of the U.S.-installed Governing Council on the second day of a mission to break the impasse between the United States and the country's influential Shiite Muslim clergy on the blueprint for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis.

"The U.N. can only emphasize its wish to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people with all their sects and components to come out from their long plight and to help them regain independence and sovereignty," said Brahimi, who is Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)'s special adviser on Iraq.

A senior Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the team would stay here about 10 days.

"We are here to see what kind of mechanism the Iraqis feel is more appropriate to their country," the team's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, said.

The United Nations (news - web sites) withdrew its international staff from Iraq last year following two attacks against their headquarters. The Aug. 19 truck bombing killed 22 people, including the top envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The team members were expected to travel to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, whose demand for early elections threatens to torpedo U.S. plans for transferring power to Iraqis by July 1.

Al-Sistani opposes the American plan to appoint the legislature through 18 regional caucuses. The legislature will choose a new sovereign government to take office by July 1.

Also Sunday, Ahmad Chalabi, a Westernized Shiite politician with close Pentagon (news - web sites) links, met with al-Sistani for about 90 minutes in Najaf, and said the U.N. team could be persuaded that early elections were possible.

Although the Shiites are pressing for an early ballot, many leading Sunni Muslims fear an election under U.S. occupation would produce a government dominated by majority Shiites, who were suppressed for generations by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

The Governing Council president, Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, said Sunday's talks with the U.N. team covered "all forms of an election that are adequate to bring about a representative government."

The United States and its Governing Council allies say elections cannot be held under the current unstable security conditions. They also cite the lack of proper census or electoral rolls.

In the latest violence, a U.S. soldier was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb near Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, a military spokesman said. No other details were available.

Another roadside bomb in Fallujah west of Baghdad injured two soldiers, witnesses said. In the northern city of Mosul, a U.S. convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade Sunday, and one soldier was wounded, witnesses said.

On Saturday, a bomb exploded inside a police station, killing three policemen and wounding 11 others, in Suwayrah town, 30 miles south of Baghdad, police Lt. Odai Salman Abed said Sunday.

A heavily armored convoy of Japanese troops arrived from Kuwait on Sunday in Samawah, marking Japan's first military deployment to a combat zone since 1945.

The ground troops, most of them engineers, were leading a deployment that will eventually reach about 800 soldiers in a humanitarian mission to improve water supplies and other infrastructure projects around Samawah in southeastern Iraq.

On Sunday, workers alerted by farmers to human bones sticking out of the ground in Kifai, near the southern Shiite town of Najaf, unearthed a mass grave holding the skulls and smashed bones of about 50 people.

Haitham al-Issawi, a local Shiite cleric supervising the digging, said the grave apparently dated back to the 1991 Shiite uprising that was crushed by Saddam Hussein's forces.

Since the fall of Saddam's regime, several mass graves of Shiites have been discovered in southern Iraq. Although a majority, Shiites were brutally suppressed by Saddam's Sunni-dominated government.

"We ask those who defend Saddam, where did these bodies come from," al-Issawi said.


Associated Press reporter Hamza Hendawi in Baghdad, Iraq, contributed to this report.
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Old 02-09-2004, 04:37 PM   #133
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2 GIs Killed Disposing of Iraq Explosives
Mon Feb 9, 2:15 PM ET

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces deactivated several rockets on a road, primed for launch toward a city north of Baghdad, but two U.S. soldiers were killed Monday while disposing of explosives in northern Iraq (news - web sites).

A United Nations (news - web sites) team, meanwhile, pressed ahead with its mission to find out if Iraq is ready for early elections.

The rockets were found on a road near Diyala University outside Baqouba, and were ready to be fired toward the city, a U.S. Army captain said on condition of anonymity. Baqouba is 35 miles north of Baghdad and part of the so-called Sunni Triangle, the stronghold of insurgents from the former regime of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

The explosion outside of Sinjar near the northern city of Mosul that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured six appeared to have been an accident and not a result of hostile fire, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

The U.N. experts met with several Iraqi politicians in a second round of meetings to discuss the chances of holding early elections, a source of conflict between the United States and the influential Shiite clergy.

Team leader Lakhdar Brahimi met individually with several members of the U.S.-installed Governing Council to "gather facts," said Ahmad Fawzi, the team's spokesman.

Fawzi added that Brahimi will hold more talks with people across the political spectrum, both inside and outside the Governing Council.

On Sunday, Japan expanded its first military deployment to a combat zone since World War II, and Britain's Prince Charles paid a surprise visit to British troops in southern Iraq.

Iraqi police arrested four people Sunday about 35 miles west of Kirkuk who were traveling in a car with maps identifying military and other targets. They also had a manual for making explosives, said Hadi Mohammed Moustafa, a civil administration official.

U.S. soldiers also exchanged fire with a group of gunmen outside the house of a suspected insurgent in Qadisiyah, 30 miles south of Tikrit, killing one attacker. The dead assailant turned out to have been an active Iraqi police major, the U.S. military said.

Two other assailants were wounded and two were captured, the military said.

In the last 10 months, the U.S.-led occupation authorities have hurriedly recruited and trained about 150,000 Iraqis for police, army and other security forces in preparation for handing back power to a sovereign government by July 1.

But the swift buildup of security forces has led to holes in the process of weeding out Saddam loyalists and insurgency sympathizers.

The transfer of power is becoming a major headache for the U.S.-led coalition and the Governing Council.

The current U.S. plan is to choose legislators in regional caucuses, a move opposed by the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. It is hoped that Brahimi's team, which arrived Saturday on what is believed to be a 10-day mission, will help break the impasse.

Brahimi is expected to travel to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to meet al-Sistani, but no date has been disclosed.

During Sunday's talks, Sunni Muslim Arabs on the council echoed the U.S. view that early elections were not practical because of the need for extensive preparations to ensure a fair and credible ballot.

Most of the Shiite members favored an early vote, arguing that sufficient data was available to guarantee an acceptable election.

"The Sunni Arabs fear that an early election will be dominated by the Shiites," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish council member opposing an early vote.

The Sunni fears arise in part from the minority community's disarray since the overthrow of Saddam, whose downfall ended decades of Sunni privilege at the expense of the country's Shiite majority and sizable Kurdish community.

The New York Times reported Monday that American officials in Baghdad have obtained a detailed proposal that they believe was written by an operative in Iraq to senior leaders of al-Qaida, asking for help to wage a "sectarian war" between Shiites and Sunnis in the next months.

The Americans believe the undated 17-page document was written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has long been under scrutiny by the United States for suspected ties to al-Qaida, the Times said.

In Samawah, a heavily armored convoy of Japanese soldiers arrived Sunday as part of Tokyo's first military deployment in a hostile region since 1945.

The ground troops, mostly engineers, lead a deployment that will eventually reach about 800 soldiers in a humanitarian mission to improve water supplies and other infrastructure projects around Samawah. Another 200 soldiers will remain in Kuwait.
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Old 02-12-2004, 08:37 AM   #134
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U.S. commander comes under fire in Iraq
Abizaid unharmed after attack in FallujahUpdated: 9:29 a.m. ET Feb. 12, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, escaped injury in an apparent ambush Thursday at a local headquarters of a U.S.-sponsored Iraqi security force.

Just moments after a convoy carrying Abizaid and his party pulled inside the cinderblock walls at the headquarters of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in this city west of Baghdad, an explosion rang out. Seconds later, two more explosions were heard near the rear of the compound, and U.S. soldiers responded with a barrage of rifle and machine gun fire.

Several attackers fired three rocket-propelled grenades, and another pelted the party with small arms fire from a nearby mosque. The gun battle lasted about six minutes.

No U.S. soldiers and no one in Abizaid’s party were injured. Residents said one Iraqi was grazed in the leg by a bullet and slightly injured.

Abizaid was accompanied by Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. After the gun battle, Abizaid and Swannack canceled plans to walk into the city and instead returned to a U.S. military base near here.

The timing of the attack raised questions about the possibility of a breach in security surrounding the general’s trip.

After Abizaid left in a convoy of Humvee utility vehicles, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment asked members of the Iraqi security force to clear the mosque. But they refused.

At a briefing later in Baghdad, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Coalition Joint Task Force 7, said three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the group, but that no one was injured. He said he believed the attack was done by “a small number” of Iraqis.

Abizaid appeared unfazed. Speaking in Arabic to one member of the Iraqi security force after the gunfight, the general asked about the attack and was told, “This is Fallujah. What do you expect.”

Later, after he returned to the U.S. base, Abizaid told a reporter, “This is an area where there are plenty of former regime elements out there, willing to fight.”

Abizaid was tapped as Central Command chief after Gen. Tommy Franks retired after the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.

Increase in attacks
Insurgents have apparently accelerated attacks against U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies in an effort to wreck the planned June 30 handover.

Two suicide bombings against Iraqi targets on Tuesday and Wednesday killed around 100 people. Hours after the second suicide attack, two American soldiers were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Amid the violence, Iraq's U.S. administrators have been trying to soothe criticism of the handover plan from the influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani.

The ayatollah demands elections be held to create a provisional legislature, but the United States contends there's no time to properly organize a ballot before the deadline. The U.N. team, which is assessing the feasibility of elections and examining alternatives, met al-Sistani for two hours at his home in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Shiites, thought to make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, have long been ruled over by Sunnis, who are concentrated mostly in Baghdad and central Iraq, and were harshly suppressed under Saddam Hussein. They are now eager to run the country and would likely dominate elections, raising Sunni concerns.

Sunni supporters of Saddam's ousted regime are thought to be leading the campaign of violence against U.S. troops and Iraqis cooperating with the occupation. Foreign militants also have joined the fight.

Letter to al-Qaida leaders
The United States made public a letter to al-Qaida leaders thought to be sent by a Jordanian militant in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saying that insurgents are in a "race against time" to stop the power transfer, when Iraqi security forces will take a more prominent role.

The author of the letter -- which the military said Monday it had found on a captured al-Qaida courier -- lays out plans for a campaign of attacks on Iraqi "collaborators" and Kurds and on Shiite Muslims, aimed at sparking a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. The coalition announced a $10 million bounty for al-Zarqawi.

U.S. military commanders in Baghdad said this week's rare consecutive suicide bombings may be connected to al-Zarqawi's plans outlined in the letter.

Wednesday's blast was at least the ninth major suicide or vehicle bombing in Iraq this year. The deadliest was a Feb. 1 double suicide attack against Kurdish party offices in the northern city of Irbil, killing at least 109 people.

The Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported Thursday that the suicide bombers in the Irbil attacks were identified as two Iraqis -- a Sunni Arab and Kurd -- who belong to the Ansar al-Sunnah Army militant group. That group issued a claim of responsibility after the attacks, blaming the Kurds for cooperating with the Americans.

The deaths Wednesday of the U.S. soldiers brought to 374 the number of Americans who have been killed in hostile action since the beginning of military operations in Iraq. A total of at least 537 Americans have died, including non-combat deaths.

On Thursday, two mortar shells exploded near a police station and a hotel housing journalists in the southern town of Samawah, where Japanese troops have deployed, but no injuries were reported.
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Old 02-12-2004, 12:36 PM   #135
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