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Car Explosion Kills Three Soldiers

Car Explosion Kills Three Soldiers

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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- A car exploded at a special operations checkpoint in western Iraq, killing three coalition soldiers, a pregnant woman and the car's driver, the U.S. Central Command said Friday.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Central Command deputy director of operations, described the bombing as terrorist. "These are not military actions. These are terrorist actions," he said.

The apparent suicide attack occurred Thursday night about 11 miles southwest of the Haditha Dam. The site is northwest of Baghdad and about 80 miles east of the Syrian border.

Brooks said U.S. special operations forces were working in the region of the dam, but he declined to give further details on what forces were killed.

"A pregnant female stepped out of the vehicle and began screaming in fear," a Central Command statement said. "At this point the civilian vehicle exploded, killing three coalition force members who were approaching the vehicle and wounding two others." The statement said the woman and the driver also were killed.

Brooks said it was impossible to know if the woman voluntarily took part in the attack.

"As coalition forces began to approach, she and the vehicle were detonated," Brooks said. "Whether this woman was coerced or not, it's now impossible to say ... some parts of it will never be discovered."

Jim Wilkinson, the spokesman at U.S. Central Command, said the incident showed the Iraqi leadership was using desperate measures to remain in power.

The Thursday attack was the second known suicide bombing to hit U.S. forces. Saturday, U.S. officials said, a man posing as a taxi driver staged a suicide attack that killed four soldiers at an Army checkpoint near Nasiriyah, south of Baghdad.

"The more desperate the regime gets, the more desperate their tactics become," Wilkinson said. "This is just the latest tragic example."

In the first suicide attack against American forces a bomber posing as a taxi driver pulled up close to a roadblock north of Najaf on Saturday, waved to American troops for help, then blew his vehicle up as they approached.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rewarded the officer, honoring him with a posthumous promotion, two new medals and a huge financial windfall for his family.

The Iraqi government has said suicide bombings will be a "routine military policy" and has promised more attacks.

Troops have been on heightened alert since that attack, and have fired on civilian vehicles that have approached checkpoints.

In the deadliest incident reported so far, 11 members of the same family were killed when troops fired on their car near Najaf on Monday.

U.S. officials have said the troops have a right to defend themselves against what they call "terrorist" tactics by the Iraqi regime.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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