Two US Soldiers Killed as Attacks Increase in Iraq


Sunday  March 14, 2004

Naseer Al-Nahr, Arab News Staff

BAGHDAD, 14 March 2004 — Two American soldiers were killed and five wounded yesterday while the US-led coalition unveiled plans to tighten border controls to combat a rise in attacks as the date for handing back sovereignty approaches. The brother-in-law of a Shiite member of Iraq’s interim Governing Council was also killed when a bomb was placed outside his perfume shop in Baghdad. It was not clear if the attack was politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Washington doled out more coveted reconstruction contracts in Iraq to US companies, while 190 Japanese soldiers left Japan for Samawa to join some 240 troops already in the southern Iraqi city on humanitarian work.

In an early morning ambush, a US convoy of soldiers on patrol in Tikrit, 180 kilometers (120 miles) north of Baghdad, was hit by a roadside bomb and shot at by unknown attackers, a senior US military official said.

“We had two coalition soldiers killed and five coalition soldiers wounded,” the official said, adding that the injured soldiers were in a serious condition.

None of the attackers was killed and there was no information of any arrests after the ambush, the official said, on condition of anonymity. The soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division had just begun a one-year rotation in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, taking over from the 4th Infantry Division.

Homemade and roadside bombs, the biggest killers of US military personnel in Iraq, are often disguised in the carcass of a dead animal such as a dog to avoid raising the suspicion of people driving past. Added to an official Pentagon tally, the deaths raise to 270 the number of American soldiers killed in action since US President George Bush declared major hostilities over on May 1.

In the afternoon, a bomb killed a brother-in-law of Iraqi Governing Council member Ibrahim Al-Jaffari, said a representative from the Shiite politician’s Dawa party.

The official said he did not know if Haidar Al-Qizwini’s death was politically motivated. The US military reported one wounded in the attack.

Meanwhile, US overseer in Iraq Paul Bremer said that more would be done to prevent foreign fighters, who US officials blame for a recent surge in deadly bombings, from infiltrating the country’s porous borders.

The coalition, working with Iraq’s Interior Ministry, plans to improve border controls as part of a larger plan to boost security across the country. The borders are currently wide open and border police lack basics such as vehicles.

Under the plan, the authorities would double to 16,000 its Iraqi border security staff by the middle of next year and increase the level further if necessary. At the same time it would increase immigration staff to 1,000 from just 86 at present, said top coalition spokesman Dan Senor.

— With input from agencies


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