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US Losses Mount Two Months After The Fall Of Baghdad

by AFP Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2003 at 2:27 PM

The US death brought to 29 the number of American servicemen who have died in fighting or accidents in Iraq since US President George W. Bush declared the war effectively over on May 1, according to an AFP toll.



6-9-3



(AFP) -- Two months after the fall of Baghdad, the death toll among occupying US troops is mounting from Iraqi attacks that have become a daily occurrence despite American insistence they are isolated incidents.

 

The situation remained tense Monday as a debate intensified over the failure of US-led forces to find the weapons of mass destruction that Washington used to justify the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

 

The latest casualty was an American soldier killed late Sunday at a checkpoint near the Syrian border by two gunmen who emerged from a car that had pulled up begging for medical help, coalition officials revealed.

 

The troops returned fire, killing one of the attackers and capturing another, a statement said Monday.

 

However, at least one other assailant sped off in the vehicle, sparking a manhunt by US forces overnight in the town of Al-Qaim.

 

The US death brought to 29 the number of American servicemen who have died in fighting or accidents in Iraq since US President George W. Bush declared the war effectively over on May 1, according to an AFP toll.

 

A total of 137 US military personnel were killed in Iraq between the start of the US-led invasion on March 20 and May 1, according to Pentagon figures. Of these 114 died in combat or "friendly fire" incidents and 23 in accidents.

 

US officials have played down the spate of attacks since they took Baghdad on April 9, saying they are the work of criminals, terrorists or lingering remnants of Saddam's Baath party.

 

But the US Central Command (Centcom) is clearly concerned at the continuing violence plaguing the US-led forces as it struggles to consolidate control of Iraq, restore order and pave the way for a transitional government.

 

The coalition's radio station on Sunday urged Iraqis to denounce those responsible for the assaults. "The coalition will not tolerate attacks against its forces because they target not only its men but the Iraqi people," it said.

 

US commanders had already said the attacks were obliging them to rethink their timetable for rotating out some of the 147,000 American troops that are in Iraq along with 15,000 British soldiers.

 

In another incident, Centcom said Monday that US troops had detained two Iraqis after coming under fire in the tense western town of Fallujah. It did not mention the killing of a gunshop owner reported by residents.

 

More than 1,000 extra troops were ordered into the Fallujah area last week to clamp down on the spate of violence against US forces.

 

The United States has also been discussing the deployment of troops from other countries in Iraq.

 

Indian media reports said US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani met in a Washington hotel on Sunday to discuss the possible use of Indian forces.

 

The reports said the two countries were discussing a US request for India to send a division-strength contingent to replace its own occupation troops as part of an international stabilisation force in Iraq.

 

New Delhi has not officially responded but the Indian military and the political opposition vehemently oppose the deployment because Indian troops will fall under British or US command.

 

On the civil front, US administrator Paul Bremer ate lamb and rice with tribal sheikhs in the Iraqi countryside Sunday as he stepped up efforts to woo moderate traditional leaders in the Iranian-influenced Shiite Muslim south.

 

In a whirlwind helicopter tour, Bremer also visited a US-backed interim governor and a moderate Shiite cleric whose university has a Christian teacher and has even enrolled one Jewish student.

 

Bremer told the Iraqis that he was "anxious to receive the counsel and advice of you and your colleagues" on the drafting of a new constitution.

 

"We are intent on correcting those past wrongs by achieving a government that is representative of all Iraq," he said in reference to the repression of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

 

As the occupying coalition sought to stabilize the situation in Iraq, the political fur flew over its failure so far to find the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons once held out as a clear and present threat.

 

US Democratic presidential contenders moved Sunday to turn missing Iraqi weapons into an election issue, accusing the Bush administration of lying -- and drawing parallels with the Watergate scandal.

 

But Secretary of State Colin Powell stood by his February statement to the UN Security Council, in which he detailed US claims that Iraq was hiding its weapons from UN arms inspectors.

 

"Not only have I been studying this for many, many years, but, as I prepared that statement, I worked very closely with the director of central intelligence, George Tenet," Powell told the "Fox News Sunday" program.

 

He said his statement had been vetted thoroughly by all analysts working on the matter and he had spent four days and nights at CIA headquarters, making sure that data in his speech were supported by intelligence information.

 

"Because it wasn't the president's credibility and my credibility on the line," Powell said. "It was the credibility of the United States of America."

 

 

 

Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.

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