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U.S. Vows To Punish Lynch Mob

A roadside bomb injured three American troops in a U.S. military convoy on Thursday near Fallujah, a day after the grisly killing and mutilation of four American contract workers in the city. The top U.S. administrator in Iraq said the deaths would not go unpunished.

In Ramadi, west of Fallujah, six Iraqi civilians died and four were wounded Wednesday evening in a car bombing at a market, said Lt. Col. Steve Murray, a coalition spokesman.

"The Iraqi police had not determined whether it was detonated by remote control or whether it was a suicide bomber within the car," Murray said.

Associated Press Television News footage showed smoke pouring from a Humvee that had been abandoned on a roadside just outside Fallujah on Thursday. In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said insurgents targeted the convoy with a bomb, and the injured troops were flown to a combat support hospital.

Also Thursday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy in northern Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi. APTN footage showed U.S. soldiers putting a wounded person on a stretcher inside an armored vehicle.

In other developments:

  • Iraqi security forces in Basra fired on protesters demanding jobs as police officers, killing one protester and injuring two others. A British military vehicle that was in the area was hit by some stones. Last week in the area, there was a clash between British troops and jobless Iraqis demanding jobs.
  • The Christian Science Monitor quotes American and British experts who estimate that between 8,789 and 10,638 civilians have died since the Iraq war began, although there are no official estimates and the deaths can be blamed on many factors.
  • Five U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday, raising the number of U.S. troops killed in March to at least 48, the second-deadliest month for U.S. troops since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. The deadliest month was November, when 82 U.S. troops were killed. In all, at least 597 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began March 20, 2003.
  • The top Pentagon health official told Congress this week that 18,000 soldiers have been medically evacuated from Iraq to date, UPI reports. That includes soldiers who have been wounded or gotten sick.

    In Fallujah, police retrieved the remains of the four slain Americans on Wednesday night, wrapped them in blankets, and gave them to U.S. forces, said Iraqi police officer Lt. Salah Abdullah.

    "We were shocked because our Islamic beliefs reject such behavior," he said referring to the abuse of the bodies.

    "We will pacify that city," Kimmitt said, pledging to hunt down those who carried out the killings. "We will be back in Fallujah. It will be at the time and place of our choosing."

    He said the military had tried to send Iraqi police to the scene, but the police reported they couldn't get close enough in time.

    "The event happened very, very rapidly, and by the accounts of the Iraqi police, by the time they got there the situation was pretty well complete at that point," Kimmitt said.

    Jubilant mobs Wednesday dragged the burned, mutilated bodies of the four American contractors through the streets and strung two of them up from a bridge after rebels ambushed their vehicles.

    U.S. officials denounced the violence and vowed to stay the course in Iraq.

    Some residents vowed to repel U.S. forces if they raid the city.

    "We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah," said Sameer Sami, 40. "Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans."

    Another resident, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, 30, said, "We wish that they (U.S. forces) would try to enter Fallujah so we'd let hell break lose."

    The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, on Thursday condemned the killings and said "their deaths would not go unpunished."

    "Yesterday's events in Fallujah are dramatic examples of the ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism," he said at a graduation ceremony for police cadets. "The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable … They violate the tenants of all religions including Islam as one of the foundations of civilized society."

    Iraqi Interior Minister Nori al Badran vowed to send forces into Fallujah "to bring killers to justice."

    "Forces will be sent to Fallujah … from the army, the police and from the civil defense (force)," he said. He did not say when the troops would enter the city.

    There was no sign of a military buildup near Fallujah by mid-afternoon Thursday.

    At a U.S. base about two miles east of the city, 1st Lt. Wade Zirkle, when asked whether U.S. forces would enter the city, said, "It is our job to go there and maintain security in the city and we are making sure that something like that will not happen again."

    He said Wednesday's attack was carried out by a "few bandits and terrorists … who are terrorizing the city."

    The White House blamed terrorists and remnants of Saddam Hussein's former regime for the "horrific attacks" on the American contractors.

    "It is offensive, it is despicable the way these individuals have been treated," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

    Referring to the planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, McClellan said "the best way to honor those that lost their lives" is to continue with efforts to bring democracy to Iraq.

    State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the contractors, all men, "were trying to make a difference and to help others." Officials did not identify the dead or the nature of their work because the next of kin had not yet been notified.

    Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, has been the scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the U.S.-led occupation a year ago.

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