Two more americans were killed here today, this time civilians, reports CBS News Anchor Dan Rather on assignment in Iraq.
CBS News has learned one of them was a woman with an important role here. Fern Holland worked on the newly-developed Iraqi constitution and was leading women's rights efforts in the part of the country where she was killed.
The way it happened suggests that anti-American forces have adopted new tactics of disguise and deception. Thirty-five miles south of Baghdad, on the road to the town of Hillah, two American civilian employees of the Department of Defense and their Iraqi translator were executed by terrorists disguised as Iraqi police manning a fake checkpoint. Polish coalition forces later arrested five suspects still driving the Americans' car with the bodies hidden inside.
"It's a great tragedy and our hearts go out to the relatives of those killed," said Amb. Paul Bremer.
Captain Joe Ewers, 32 from Ohio, knows only too well that the streets of Iraq are dangerous. For eleven months he, and his men from Commando Company, have been trying to keep the peace in Baghdad.
Out here you learn the lessons of peace keeping the hard way - like finding out that getting in and out of your vehicle gives gunmen the time to make you a target.
"We never dismount on a main street because some of the most dangerous times, proven through enemy contact over the past several months, has been when you mount and dismount," says Ewers.
Emerging from the shadows of the night, the patrol engages local shopkeepers -- not with weapons but with Arabic.
"Salem ul lakem," said Ewers.
The platoon moved on.
"Well that went all right," Rather noted. "I would have thought that might get a little touchy from time to time?"
"You just gotta make sure that some people are watching while some people are talking," replied Ewers. "That's the key thing right there."
Watching the garbage for explosive devices is another life saving procedure.
"One of the techniques that the enemy has used, at times they'll bury them in the median, hide them in garbage, in a lot of different things."
Rather wanted to know what worried him most when Ewers was out on patrol?
"The small arms and everything doesn't bother me," he answered. "It's the car bombs and stuff like that -- that as a patrol we can't defend ourselves against."
But Captain Ewers says his patrols are getting easier -- as Iraqis become more confident of the security situation.
"The local crime has gone down significantly. They're not tolerating people just running and gunning through their neighborhoods any more."
And like any soldiers they've all got one other thing on their minds.
"We'd definitely like to go home. We are here until mission complete but most of us would like to go home," Ewers said.
They haven't been given an out date but they hope its only weeks away.
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