GIs Die Amid Baghdad Bloodshed

Gunman dressed in Iraqi Army uniforms killed 13 people in a Sunni village outside Baghdad. Iraq, gunman, violence, soldier,
Several days of relative calm in Baghdad and relative safety for American soldiers there were shattered in separate incidents overnight and during the day Thursday.

A powerful car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy, killing between seven and 12 people and wounding 52, many of them seriously, hospital and rescue officials said.

Later Thursday, a fierce gun battle broke out in central Baghdad, with at least one American casualty.

The battle followed a firefight the night before in which two American soldiers were killed, the military announced. The two were killed in a battle in the Al Rashid section of Baghdad, and their translator was wounded, the U.S. Central Command said.

The deaths Wednesday night ended a four-day period in which no U.S. forces had been killed and brought to 55 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat since May 1, when President Bush declared major fighting over.

Elsewhere, U.S. forces captured four suspected leaders of the anti-U.S. resistance in pre-dawn raids Thursday, the military said, a day after the Americans netted 18 suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists and found a huge stockpile of weapons.

In other developments:

  • In a speech Wednesday night to a campaign reception in Sacramento, Vice President Dick Cheney vowed the U.S. will stay in Iraq "until we've wrapped up all of the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of the United States."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports criticism of an executive order by Mr. Bush preventing judgments or fines against Iraqi oil products or "any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof." The administration denies the order is a boon to American oil companies.
  • Iraq's postwar efforts for recovery are continuing, with the U.S.-installed Governing Council asking for U.S. help in creating desperately needed jobs.
  • Soldiers in Iraq say visits to the gravesites of Saddam's sons are rare. The U.S. had worried the gravesite would become a rallying point for anti-American forces.
  • The Army is urging soldiers in Iraq to take new precautions while officials try to find the cause of a pneumonia outbreak. The Army surgeon general's office is advising troops to avoid dehydration, to be careful when dealing with dust, and to stop smoking.
  • The first group of Ukrainian peacekeepers has left for the Persian Gulf. In Southern Iraq, Spanish troops are repairing barracks and setting up tents for an international team of troops scheduled to arrive within weeks. Their arrival will let more U.S. troops head home from the region.
  • More U.S. troops are preparing to deploy to Iraq. The Tenth Mountain Division at New York's Fort Drum is sending 600 more troops. The Army says the entire First Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment is preparing for "future contingencies as may be directed."

    Thursday's gun battle erupted when a U.S. Humvee was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. The soldiers returned fire into a two-story building, and at least eight more Humvees of Americans joined the fight. There was heavy machine gun and automatic rifle fire. Two helicopters hovered above.

    One soldier was seen being evacuated from the firezone. U.S. forces stormed the building and emerged about five minutes later carrying their comrade. It was not immediately known if the soldier had been killed or wounded.

    Before taking the building, the military allowed about 20 civilians inside to come out with their hands in the air. Some carried white handkerchiefs. After the soldiers attacked, the building began burning and was gutted.

    Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, told a news conference the attack on the Jordanian Embassy was "the worst on a soft target" since Baghdad fell to American forces April 9.

    The blast blew down one wall of the embassy and gutted nearby cars, hurling the mangled remains of one onto the roof of a nearby building. Two bodies were seen still sitting in some of the vehicles damaged in the blast.

    Shortly after the blast, young Iraqi men stormed the embassy gate and began destroying pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah II and his late father, King Hussein. They were shouting anti-Jordanian chants, but were quickly dispersed by American forces and Iraqi police.

    The bomb was believed to have been planted in a minibus parked outside the walled embassy compound and detonated remotely. The chassis of the minibus landed on top of three of the burned out cars.

    The Jordanian consul, Karim Shushan, was among the wounded, said Ahmed al-Bakri, a doctor at the Yarmuk Hospital.

    "I was sitting in the reception. I heard the first explosion, I ran out and then there was another explosion. Many employees were inside the embassy as well as Iraqis and Jordanians. Smoke filled the street," said Shaheed Mazloum, 50, an Iraqi guard at the embassy, who was treated at the al-Kharkh Hospital.

    In Jordan, Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack."

    "This criminal act will only boost our determination to continue our support for the brotherly Iraqi people," he said.

    Tensions between the neighboring countries have been high because of Jordan's support for the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

    While Jordan is a major entry point into Iraq and remains a large trading partner, many Iraqis are resentful that Jordan dropped its support for Saddam after the 1991 Gulf War, and allowed U.S. troops to use its soil as a base during the latest war.

    King Abdullah II last week granted "humanitarian asylum" to two daughters of Saddam, whose husbands fled to Jordan in 1996 but were lured back home and killed by Saddam's regime in 1996.