GI Killed In 'Sunni Triangle'

U.S. Army troops from the 4th Brigade, 1st Field Artillery, 1st A.D., inspect the damage caused by an unidentified remote-controlled bomb injuring two soldiers, Thursday, July 31, 2003, in Baghdad, Iraq. AP

A U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded by small-arms fire at their base in northern Iraq.

The U.S. Central Command said the soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division came under attack at a forward position 50 miles northeast of Baghdad at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday.

The wounded soldiers, who weren't identified until their families were notified, were taken to a military hospital for treatment.

The death brought to 50 the number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. In all, 165 Americans have been killed in combat in Iraq, 18 more than died in the 1991 Gulf War.

The attack came 25 miles east of Baqouba, where U.S. troops have come under repeated attack recently, especially by mortar fire.

In Baghdad, Iraqis witnesses reported another attack on two U.S. trucks carrying unexploded ordnance to Baghdad International Airport for destruction. The witnesses said a rocket-propelled grenade was fired on one truck and the ordnance exploded. A U.S. armored vehicle could be seen burning on the road.

Witness Ali Khamid said he saw two U.S. soldiers taken away by helicopter and two others, faces covered as if dead, loaded into an ambulance. The military said it had no information on the incident.

In other recent developments:

  • The man who is spearheading the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction will be on Capitol Hill Thursday, giving the Senate a closed-door briefing on how things are going. Former United Nations weapons inspector David Kay has already talked with President Bush, who says it will take time to analyze the "miles of documents" that have been recovered. Mr. Bush says Kay's analysis involves not only the weapons program, but also links to terrorist groups. The president acknowledged the search will "take awhile," but says he has no doubt "the truth will come out" about the weapons program.

  • More than Iraqi 200 tribal leaders gathered Wednesday in front of the house of Prince Rabiah Muhammed al-Habib, one of the country's most influential tribal leaders, to protest a U.S. raid on his home in Baghdad's al-Mansour neighborhood Sunday in search for Saddam. A nearby hospital reported five Iraqis were killed in the shooting. The American military said it is looking into the incident.

    "If this will continue, then the feeling of the Iraqis will develop into hatred, and that's not healthy for the Iraqi people and for the Americans," said al-Habib.

  • President Bush says the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons do represent progress in assuring the Iraqi people that the old regime is gone forever. But Mr. Bush emphasizes he doesn't know "how close we are" to finding the deposed dictator. "Closer than we were yesterday, I guess. All I know is we're on the hunt," said the president, at a White House news conference on Wednesday.

  • Mr. Bush also accepted personal responsibility for a disputed portion of his State of the Union speech dealing with claims that Saddam was seeking nuclear material in Africa. "I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely," the president said, as he sought to quell a controversy that has dogged his administration for weeks.

  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair says his administration still hasn't convinced the British public that the war on Iraq was justified. Blair was asked Wednesday if he thought voters mistrusted his administration. The prime minister responded, "I accept there is an issue which we have to confront."

    It is in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," a heavily Sunni Muslim area to the north and west of Baghdad where support for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein has been strongest and where U.S. forces have come under the most attacks.

    The death of the soldier late Wednesday broke a period of relative peace. No U.S. soldier had been reported killed in combat in Iraq in more than 48 hours.

    Early Thursday in Baghdad, the U.S. administrator for Iraq - L. Paul Bremer - said he believes general elections might be held in Iraq within a year to replace the U.S.-appointed Governing Council whose legitimacy has been questioned by the international community.

    Bremer, a former diplomat and counter-terrorism expert, said the elections would be held once a new constitution has been written and accepted by the Iraqi people in a referendum.

    "It is certainly not unrealistic to think that we could have elections by mid-year 2004," Bremer said while touring the partially refurbished Iraqi Foreign Ministry with members of the interim government he appointed on July 13. "And when a sovereign government is installed, the coalition authority will cede authority to the government and my job here will be over."

    The 61-year-old Bremer, who took over running the country from Gen. Jay Garner, said the establishment of a new government would mark the end of his diplomatic career.

    "Although that will mark my final retirement as a diplomat, it will mean that you, the diplomats of Iraq, will be going forward representing a fully sovereign government," Bremer told Foreign Ministry staff.

    The fact that Iraq doesn't have an elected government makes reconstruction of the war-shattered country much more difficult. On Wednesday, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said it was unclear whether the interim government had the legitimacy to receive international loans.

    "Clearly a constitution and an elected government would constitute a recognized government, but what do we do in the meantime?" Wolfensohn said during a one-day trip to Baghdad. "It's a subject that needs interpretation."

    In a landmark for the 25-member Governing Council that Bremer brought into existence, the organization announced this week that it will function with a nine-member rotating presidency, beginning with the first name in the Arabic alphabet, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a representative of the Islamic Dawa Party which was banned under Saddam Hussein.

    Al-Jaafari will be followed in September by Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, who has strong support in the Pentagon, and in October by Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim doctor who heads the Iraq National Accord, which has deep roots in the opposition to Saddam both at home and abroad.

    In its first sitting July 13, the council said its first order of business would be to select a president, but differences among its members prevented it from agreeing on a single leader.

    The nine-member rotating presidency emerged after members failed to agree on a three-member joint presidency, council sources told The Associated Press.

    • Joel Roberts

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