CBSN

U.S. War Toll Tops 200

U.S. Army soldiers from A Company 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Regiment patrol through an area of Karbala, Iraq about 60 kilometers west of Baghdad Saturday, June 28, 2003
AP
The bodies of two U.S. soldiers who went missing earlier this week were found Saturday north of the capital, as the toll of American dead since the beginning of the war topped 200 — a grim milestone likely to increase scrutiny on America's mission in Iraq.

The two soldiers' remains were found 20 miles northwest of the capital, covered in straw, after a massive air and ground search, the military said. The soldiers had been identified as Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Linden, New Jersey, and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio.

It was unclear what happened to the men. CBS News Reporter Lisa Barron reports that the number of Iraqis being held for questioning in connection with the deceased soldiers has jumped from six to 12. The military started raiding homes in the area of Iraq on Wednesday and on Friday found personal belongings belonging to the two soldiers in some residences there.

From the discovery of the two missing Americans to new outbreaks of violence, the day's events highlighted the daily seesaw of progress and setbacks that has gripped the U.S.-led occupation.

In other developments:

  • Attackers lobbed a grenade at a U.S. convoy making its way through the predominantly Shiite Thawra neighborhood of northeast Baghdad late Friday, killing one American soldier and wounding four others, said military spokesman Sgt. Patrick Compton.
  • Another soldier shot in the neck Friday as he shopped at a Baghdad market was listed in critical condition Saturday, Compton said.
  • The New York Times reports that against the recommendations of the State Department and ground commanders, the Pentagon delayed the return of five Syrian border guards captured in an operation last week at a town near the Iraq-Syria border. It wanted more details on the clashes.
  • The Washington Post reports the U.S. occupation force has canceled elections in at least a dozen Iraqi towns and appointed its own mayors, some of them former Iraqi military officers. U.S. commanders say elections would bring chaos, but many Iraqis are irked by the moves.
  • The sabotage of oil, natural gas, power and other facilities in Iraq is looking more and more like part of a coordinated campaign, reports The New York Times. U.S. troops have uncovered documents apparently drawn up by Saddam Hussein's regime detailing just such a sabotage plan.

    "Combat is not over in this country," a U.S. military spokesman said Saturday, amid signs that larger-scale military operations might kick off soon to eliminate armed resistance.

    Families of unlucky soldiers are learning that for themselves. In Roselle, New Jersey, the family of Sgt. Philippe, one of the two missing soldiers found dead, learned of his fate not from the military but through the media, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta.

    "The government says the war is over but the war is not over. People die every day — almost every day," said Renisse Philippe, the soldier's father, who said he still supports the war.

    News of the missing soldiers' deaths came amid a disquieting drumbeat of guerrilla-style attacks and sabotage that have raised doubts about the coalition's mission in Iraq, and with Senate Democrats in Washington calling for an inquiry into the credibility of prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its links to the al Qaeda terror network.

    As the attacks have continued, so has fear that resistance to the occupation is becoming more organized. The U.S. military brushed off those claims.

    "We have always anticipated and were prepared for what we term as pockets of resistance," said Lt. Commander Nicholas Balice, a spokesman for Centcom in Tampa, Florida. "We anticipate that we'll be dealing with the situation for some time."

    U.S. soldiers are still looking for the weapons of war in people's homes, where Iraqis often keep guns for protection, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

    Sometimes the patrols go tragically wrong. On Thursday, an 11-year-old boy named Hamid was shot on the roof of his house by American soldiers. They say he had a gun and they thought he was going to shoot them.

    "It was brutality," said his uncle, Bassim Hassan, in Arabic. "They even fired shots inside the house and didn't let us take him to hospital."

    In other violence, suspected insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades on Friday at U.S. troops in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, but didn't cause any injuries or damage.

    Later, soldiers at a checkpoint arrested four Iraqi men when rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and grenades were found in their vehicle, the military said.

    A U.S. patrol came under small arms fire late Friday near Habaniyah, just west of Fallujah, and U.S. troops returned fire, but no injuries or damage were reported.

    Looters on Saturday set fire to one of Baghdad's largest textbook printing plants, sending a cloud of thick black smoke billowing over the capital. Coalition forces arrested two men in the incident.

    The deaths reported Saturday bring to at least 63 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since major combat was declared over on May 1. The military has confirmed the identities of 138 soldiers killed before that date, while the names of several other casualties have not yet been made available.

    Forty-two British troops, an estimated 3,240 Iraqi civilians and an unknown number of Iraqi troops have died in the war.

    The American death toll was still far below the 382 U.S. troops killed in the 1991 Gulf War.