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U.S. Tank Hit, 2 GIs Dead In Iraq

Two American soldiers were killed when their Abrams battle tank was damaged by resistance fighters, and seven Ukrainian troops were wounded in the first ambush of a multinational unit in the Polish sector south of Baghdad, coalition officials said Wednesday.

The tank was disabled when it was struck by a land mine or a roadside bomb Tuesday night during a patrol near Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division. A third crewman was evacuated to a U.S. hospital in Germany, she said.

It was believed to be the first M1 Abrams main battle tank destroyed since the end of major combat May 1. During the active combat phase, several of the 68-ton vehicles — the mainstay of the U.S. Army's armored forces — were disabled in combat.

The latest attacks, including a nighttime mortar barrage in Baghdad, followed a day of violence in which insurgents targeted American forces and Iraqis who work with the occupation authorities. U.S. officials also announced that Baghdad's Deputy Mayor Faris Abdul Razzaq al-Assam was killed Sunday in a drive-by shooting.

In other developments:

  • House-Senate negotiators considering an $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan have rejected a Democratic proposal to compensate federal employees on active duty with the National Guard and reserves. The proposal by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would have made up the differences between the workers' regular salaries and their service incomes, as many states and private employers are already doing. He said 23,000 federal employees would be affected.
  • The recent attacks in Iraq may discourage foreign countries from sending troops. Bangladesh and Portugal have decided not to, reports USA Today, while South Korea is holding off on any decision. Turkey is waiting to see if Iraqis accept their offer of help. Thailand, however, ruled out withdrawing its 422 noncombatant soldiers — who are on a six-month mission to help rebuild roads, buildings and other infrastructure — from Iraq.
  • The Project on Defense Alternatives, a research group, estimates total Iraqi civilian deaths from the start of the war until May 1 at 3,230 to 4,327, and military fatalities at about 9,200. Since Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1, 115 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile fire.
  • In a Rose Garden press conference, President Bush said Iraqi insurgents "are targeting the very success and freedom we are providing to the Iraqi people." He vowed that "Desperate attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate us," and refused to answer a question about reducing American troop commitments.
  • A U.S. commander tells The Washington Post he's seen no evidence of any foreign fighters heading into Iraq from Syria. Mr. Bush on Tuesday blamed recent attacks on Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign terrorists and said the U.S. was "working closely" with Syria and Iran to prevent infiltration.
  • Carl W. Ford Jr., former assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research, tells the Los Angeles Times that U.S. spy agencies "badly underperformed" in assessing Iraq's weapons capabilities. The New York Times reports U.S. commanders are weighing whether to shift resources from hunting weapons to hunting terrorists.

    The proliferation of attacks on Iraqis allied with the occupation bodes ill for attempts by the U.S.-led authorities to persuade more Iraqis to join in administering the country and play a greater role in providing security. Resistance forces have targeted several prominent figures, including Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of the Governing Council, who was fatally shot Sept. 20.

    A spokesman for the multinational division at Camp Babylon said the attack on the Ukrainians occurred when two of their armored personnel carriers rolled over land mines near Suwayrah about 40 miles southeast of Baghdad.

    After the vehicles were disabled, unidentified gunmen opened fire on the disembarked soldiers, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

    About 1,650 Ukrainians are serving in the Polish-led stabilization force patrolling central and southern Iraq.

    In Baghdad, half a dozen mortar rounds exploded late Tuesday in an upscale Jadriya neighborhood across the Tigris River from the U.S.-led coalition headquarters but caused no damage or casualties, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

    One landed in a field close to a palace once occupied by one of Saddam Hussein's daughters, now a headquarters for the U.S. civil-military affairs command. Another struck Baghdad University's College of Physical Education, damaging the wall of an enclosed volleyball court. There were no casualties in the shelling.

    In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, insurgents fired late Tuesday on the south gate at the main U.S. military base there. At least one American soldier from the 4th Infantry Division was wounded, witnesses said. A patrol was sent out to search for the assailants, who fled after firing on the troops from a nearby rooftop.

    And a U.S. military convoy was attacked Tuesday night by small arms fire in the northern city of Mosul, the military said. There were no casualties.

    Rockets were fired Tuesday night at a U.S. military compound in the oil center of Kirkuk, according to Saleh Sabah, a member of the Iraqi National Accord which has offices near the compound.

    Sabah said the U.S. troops returned fire with mortars and blocked all roads leading to their garrison.

    In Fallujah, a flashpoint Sunni Muslim city 40 miles west of Baghdad, a car exploded Tuesday afternoon on a major street, killing at least four people. The explosion occurred about 330 feet from a police station and 100 feet from a school, but the target was unclear.

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