Iraq-Jordan Dispute Heats Up

Iraq and Jordan engaged in a tit-for-tat withdrawal of ambassadors in a growing dispute over Shiite Muslim claims that Jordan is failing to block terrorists from entering Iraq, while U.S. forces killed 24 insurgents in a clash south of Baghdad.

An American convoy was traveling through the Salman Pak area, 20 miles southeast of Baghdad, when it was attacked, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said they were surprised by the size of the attack, but were able to respond with ground fire and Apache gunships from the air, reports CBS News' Philip Smucker. Six soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps, were injured in the fighting, according to an American colonel. The insurgents had ambushed a column of U.S. forces, escorted by military police and helicopters overhead.

The U.S. military also reported that an American soldier died in action while conducting "security and stability operations" in a restive central Iraq province. The soldier, assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed Sunday in Anbar Province, which contains the flashpoint cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, the military said in a statement. No other details were released.

In other developments:

  • Hundreds of thousands of rusty munitions — leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war — are scattered across the green fields and gentle hills of the two countries' common border. Long ignored, they are now being harvested by insurgents who recycle them into crude but highly deadly bombs to use against U.S. and Iraqi troops.
  • A Jordanian court Sunday sentenced in absentia Iraq's most feared terrorist — who was born in Jordan — to a 15-year prison term. But the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are unknown.
  • Zarquawi's al Qaeda in Iraq organization claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed a top anti-corruption official in the northern city of Mosul. Al-Zarqawi already has been sentenced to death twice by Jordan.
  • Gunmen in two speeding cars Monday opened fire on an Iraqi army foot patrol in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah, killing one soldier and wounding another, police Capt. Talib Thamir said.
  • The U.S. military said Monday that ten men captured by Iraqi soldiers last week had confessed to staging a March 9 Baghdad car-bomb attack near the Agricultural Ministry and a hotel favored by Westerners.

    Sunday's events capped a week of rising tensions that included a protest in which Shiite demonstrators raised the Iraqi flag over the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad and claims by the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance that Jordan was allowing terrorists to slip into Iraq. The Iraqi standard continued to flutter above the Jordanian embassy on Monday.

    "Iraqis are feeling very bitter over what happened. We decided, as the Iraqi government, to recall the Iraqi ambassador from Amman to discuss this," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told The Associated Press.

    Jordan acted first, when Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulqi announced his charge d'affaires in Baghdad had been recalled to Amman.

    "We are hoping that the Iraqi police will devise a plan to protect the embassy," al-Mulqi said. "Meanwhile, we have asked the charge d'affaires to come back because he was living in the embassy."

    He added that other Jordanian diplomats will remain in Baghdad because they do not live in the embassy compound.

    Both countries said the officials were being recalled for "consultations," leaving open the possibility for their return.

    Shiites began holding protests after the Iraqi government on March 14 condemned celebrations allegedly held by the family of a Jordanian man suspected of carrying out a Feb. 28 terrorist attack that killed 125 people in Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad. Nearly all the victims were Shiite police and army recruits.

    The Jordanian daily Al-Ghad reported that Raed Mansour al-Banna carried out the attack, the single deadliest of the Iraqi insurgency. The newspaper later issued a correction, however, saying it was not known where al-Banna carried out an assault.

    Al-Banna's family has denied his involvement in the Hillah attack, saying al-Banna carried out a different suicide bombing in Iraq, and Al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for the Hillah bombing.

    A military court sentenced al-Zarqawi to 15 years in jail and imprisoned an associate for three years for planning an attack on the Jordanian Embassy, the offices of the Jordanian military attache, and unspecified American targets, all in Iraq.

    The two Jordanians allegedly met in Iraq in November 2003 to plan an assault on the embassy after an August bombing of the same building killed 18 people. Al-Zarqawi has also been accused in the August attack.

    The United States has issued a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi, who was previously sentenced to death twice in Jordan: once for the Oct. 28, 2002, killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley, and again for planning to attack U.S. and Israeli targets during 1999 New Year's celebrations in the kingdom.