2 U.S. Soldiers Killed In Iraq

Two more U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, bringing the number of American combat deaths to 179, 32 more than were killed during the first Gulf war.

One soldier was killed in action on Thursday near the Iraqi town of al Hilla, 34 miles south of Baghdad. U.S. military spokeswoman Spc. Margo Doers says the second soldier was from the 1st Armored Division based in Baghdad. No other details have been released except that both soldiers were killed on Thursday.
In Baghdad Thursday, there was mixed emotion as more bodies were pulled from the bombed United Nations building, and later, word came that a top aide believed dead in the blast is alive.

The New York Daily News says the family of Marilyn Manuel was stunned and overjoyed when she called her husband and children in Queens Thursday - her 54th birthday - to say hello.

The paper says they had officially been informed days earlier that she was among the dead in Tuesday's bombing, and accordingly had been in mourning and planning her funeral.

"I can't express how I feel. I thought I was a widower," said her husband of 34 years, Benjamin Manuel, in a Daily News interview. "I have a second chance with my wife again."

In other recent developments:

  • U.S. investigators probing the bombing of U.N. headquarters focused on the possibility that former Iraqi intelligence agents working as guards in the compound may have assisted the attackers, a U.S. official said. The guards were selected by Saddam Hussein's regime before the war and reported on the movements of U.N. staff. The U.N. continued to employ the guards after the war.
  • The U.S. military says it has captured one of Saddam's top generals, Ali Hassan al-Majid - nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for carrying out poisonous gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds. U.S. officials at first thought that al-Majid was killed in April in an airstrike on a house in southern Iraq.
  • Since President Bush declared an end to formal combat on May 1, 135 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, including combat deaths. In all, 273 U.S. soldiers have died of all causes since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, 179 in combat.
  • The U.S. is making a new push for a U.N. resolution calling on nations to send troops to help American forces in Iraq. But Secretary of State Colin Powell, who met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, emphasized that Washington would not surrender any control in Iraq to the United Nations - a step diplomats say is necessary to build a robust international force. France, Russia, India and other countries have ruled out contributing soldiers unless a multinational force is authorized by the United Nations.
  • British government weapons scientist David Kelly feared he might "end up dead in the woods" if a U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq, a colleague testified Thursday at a judicial inquiry into his suicide.

    The bodies removed from the U.N. building Thursday brought the death toll from the bombing to at least 20.

    There is word on the cause of the mix-up over Manuel, who reportedly has only minor injuries despite being in the building at the time of the blast.

    A previously unknown group claimed responsibility for the bombing against the United Nations, which is suspected to have been a suicide attack. The group calling itself the "Armed Vanguards of a Second Mohammed Army" pledged "to continue fighting every foreigner (in Iraq) and to carry out similar operations" in a statement sent to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite channel.

    There was no way to verify the claim's authenticity. Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, said he was aware of a group with a similar name, but did not elaborate.

    He warned that terrorism "is emerging as the number one security threat" in Iraq.

    In Washington, U.S. intelligence officials said they were unfamiliar with the group and its claim of responsibility couldn't be authenticated. There is a known group of former Baath Party loyalists in Iraq who call themselves "Mohammed's Army," one official said, on condition of anonymity, but it is not known if the groups are related.

    The al Qaeda linked group Ansar al-Islam, based in northern Iraq since before the war, has "definitely established" cells in Baghdad and foreign fighters have been entering the country from Syria, Abizaid told a Pentagon press conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    They would not say whether foreign terrorists or Saddam loyalists were suspected in the U.N. blast, or whether various groups were working together.

    Despite the bombing, the United Nations will not increase the number of U.S. soldiers standing guard outside its facilities from the dozen or so it had before the attack, said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, Iraq coordinator for U.N. humanitarian programs.

    "It's not that we have anything against the Coalition forces, but you do realize the presence of Coalition forces does intimidate some of the people we need to speak to and work with," he told reporters at the blast site.

    "We will always remain a soft target," he said. "We are conscious of that, but that is the way we operate. We are an open organization."

    Plastic bandages covered cuts on Lopes da Silva's forehead, crown and right ear inflicted when the bomb tore through a part of the building just across from his office during a meeting.

    He said the United Nations was temporarily flying about 100 support and administrative staff - out of a total work force of 300 - to Jordan and Cyprus. He also said 86 seriously wounded U.N. staffers were waiting at military medical facilities around Baghdad to be evacuated Friday.