Iraq: Another Death, Another Doubt

U.S. soldiers lead suspected Iraqi looters, including a donkey allegedly used for transport, to the Presidential Palace, a U.S. Army base now, in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 8, 2003. Two months after U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad, marking the end of Saddam Hussein's regime and the beginning of a U.S.-led occupation, security is sketchy, basic services are still hobbled and the salaries of many civil servants remain unpaid. AP

An American soldier was killed Monday in an attack at an Iraqi checkpoint in western Iraq when a group of men requesting medical assistance opened fire.

U.S. troops shot back, killing one person and arresting another.

In the troubled city of Fallujah — the scene of almost constant clashes since U.S. troops killed 18 demonstrators in two confrontations in April — another U.S. patrol came under fire.

U.S. Central Command says the soldiers did not return fire but arrested two suspects.

Meanwhile, captured terrorists are casting doubt on another piece of the Bush administration's rationale for war in Iraq: the alleged link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

In other developments:

  • U.N. officials say nearly two months after the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam's government, relief agencies are still struggling to control widespread health problems aggravated by the conflict. The Baghdad spokesman for UNICEF says 66 cases of cholera have been confirmed in Basra.

  • Iraqi health officials say the U.S. is not doing enough to arrange formal burials for hundreds of Iraqi soldiers killed during the U.S.-led invasion. American officials counter that the process is under way, but it takes time.

  • An Iraqi boy who lost his family and both arms in the U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq, is making steady progress in Kuwait. Ali Abbas has recently begun walking again. The 13-year-old says he feels good and that he's no longer in pain.

  • U.S. authorities say fewer than 50 items from the Iraqi National Museum's main exhibition collection remain missing after the looting and destruction that followed the capture of Baghdad by U.S. forces.

  • Four Democratic presidential candidates say President Bush's credibility in foreign policy has been undermined by questions about how the government used intelligence on Iraq before the war. The four mingled with activists in Iowa where caucuses next January launch the presidential nominating season.

    Bush administration officials are denying they exaggerated the threat of Iraq's arsenal to justify a war.

    Secretary of State Colin Powell says U.S. officials will intensify their search in Iraq. Powell told CNN there's "no doubt" that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.

    As the search for weapons evidence has gone on without success, administration officials have denied that illegal arms was the lead reason for going to war. Baghdad's links to al Qaeda were also important, they say.

    But now the New York Times reports two high-ranking members of the terror network who are in U.S. custody have denied that any alliance existed.

    Quoting intelligence sources, The Times that al Qaeda planner Abu Zubaydah has told interrogators that Osama bin Laden considered a partnership with Saddam but decided against it. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, an operations chief, has also denied any connection.

    According to the newspaper, Zubaydah told intelligence officers there was no link in interrogations last year, before the U.S. made the push for war against Saddam. The Bush administration has not made either statement public.

    Administration officials caution that the captured terrorists could be lying, and say they have found other evidence in Iraq suggesting a link may have existed.

    But, as it has on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, critics may focus on the fact that the administration may have made unqualified allegations when the intelligence was murky.

    In his State of the Union speech in January, President Bush said: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda."

    A week later, in his presentation to the Security Council, Powell described "the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder."

    Powell said Iraq "provides haven and active support for terrorists."
    • Joel Roberts

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