Friday, September 19, 2003

3 G.I.'s Killed In an Ambush By Guerrillas Near Tikrit

3 G.I.'s Killed In an Ambush By Guerrillas Near Tikrit

New York Times
September 19, 2003

Guerrillas shattered a two-day lull in deadly attacks against American forces in Iraq tonight, ambushing soldiers with small-arms fire near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit north of Baghdad. Military officials said three soldiers were killed and two were wounded.

Earlier today, two American soldiers were wounded and three military vehicles were destroyed when a convoy hit explosives in the road while patrolling the hot-spot town of Khaldiya, west of Baghdad.

Maj. Pete Mitchell of the Marine Corps, a spokesman for United States Central Command, said tonight that an ''unknown force'' attacked American forces in the Tikrit area. He said he had no further details on the American casualties or whether any of the attackers had been killed or wounded.

The Tikrit attack was the first deadly assault on American forces here since Monday. More than 70 American soldiers have been killed in hostile fire in Iraq since President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1.

Several news organizations tonight quoted witnesses as saying that two or more American soldiers had died in the attack in Khaldiya, but Amy Abbott, an American military spokeswoman, said soldiers were only wounded.

Elsewhere today, a fire erupted on an oil pipeline near the northern town of Bayji that feeds the main pipeline to Turkey. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commanding officer for the ground forces in Iraq, said it was unclear whether the blaze was an accident or sabotage.

The area where the Khaldiya attack occurred today roiled with further anger at Americans. In nearby Falluja -- where nine police officers were killed last week by American soldiers -- crowds marched for the funeral of a 14-year-old boy who had been shot, residents said, by American troops Wednesday night.

Residents said American troops, apparently thinking they were under attack, opened fire near a wedding where guests were shooting off machine guns in celebration.

The Khaldiya attack today occurred about 3 p.m. along the main road, 15 miles west of Falluja. Sergeant Abbott said that the convoy hit mines and that two transport trucks and a Humvee were destroyed.

The Associated Press reported that five tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and about 40 troops surrounded the area. The news agency reported a second attack about nine miles to the west, but the military command could not confirm that tonight.

Khaldiya has been unsettled in recent weeks, with several attacks on the new police force that is supported by American troops. On Monday, the town's new police chief -- condemned by many in town as a collaborator with the Americans -- was assassinated on his way home.

The American military has been working to calm tensions in the area, and today officers met with local leaders in Falluja to discuss the deaths of the policemen. General Sanchez said the military would consider paying the families of the dead men, as he said had happened in other instances when American soldiers have accidentally killed Iraqis.

''We've paid almost a million in claims across the country,'' General Sanchez said today in Baghdad.

He also said no Americans or Britons were being held in Iraq. That possibility had been raised this week by an American brigadier general. General Sanchez also confirmed reports that the Americans were holding 3,856 members of the Iranian group People's Mujahedeen, a force backed by Mr. Hussein that has fought Iran's Islamic government.