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Four U.S. Soldiers Injured in Iraq Ambush

Four U.S. Soldiers Injured in Iraq Ambush

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KHALDIYAH, Iraq (AP) -- Ambushers fired rocket-propelled grenades at two U.S. military convoys Sunday, wounding at least four Americans -- two of them seriously -- in the separate attacks, the U.S. military announced Monday.

In the first attack, a grenade hit a civilian Iraqi bus that was passing a 4th Infantry Division convoy near the town of Mushahidah, about 15 miles north of Baghdad. At least two Americans were seriously wounded in that attack, said Capt. John Morgan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. The number of casualties on the bus were unknown.

Soldiers returned fire "to protect the convoy and the civilian bus," said the statement from U.S. Central Command.

Meantime, armor-mounted American troops swept through towns and villages west of Baghdad after dawn Monday, arresting suspected resistance leaders and searching for outlawed weapons.

It was the second day of a forceful new operation called Desert Scorpion based on intelligence pinpointing opponents of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. It followed the expiration on Sunday of an amnesty program for people turning in heavy weapons.

Families of those arrested warned resistance would only increase.

Also Sunday, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. military convoy near Dujayl, a town 35 miles north of Baghdad, lightly wounding two soldiers, Morgan said.

Qusai Taha, 33, a grocery store owner in the area, said he heard gunfire while in his store, ran outside and saw that the last vehicle in a 15-vehicle convoy had been hit.

Taha said he saw two American soldiers being taken out of the truck, and that they appeared to be wounded. Later, Taha said, two Iraqis arrived at the scene on a motorbike and set the truck ablaze. Other witnesses in the area gave similar accounts.

American soldiers were working Monday to remove the burned out vehicle.

In the small town of Khaldiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad, more than 100 military police and infantrymen in 30 Humvees and four Bradley fighting vehicles poured into the small town of Khaldiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad. Observation helicopters hovered a few hundred yards overhead.

They targeted six homes and took away nine men, acting on information about where suspected anti-American insurgents were hiding and illegal weapons stockpiled.

On the outskirts of Ramadi, about 18 miles farther west, troops seized four brothers from one home and two brothers from a neighboring family.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the raids.

In the Ramadi area, the families were still asleep when the armored column rumbled into their village at 5:15 a.m., blaring an Arabic-language warning from loudspeakers: "These are coalition forces. Please stay in your homes and open your doors. Thank you for your cooperation."

Troops bound men and women in the two houses with plastic handcuffs and moved them into a nearby field while they searched the homes, residents said. They found one rifle.

Omar Mishrif Saleh, an older brother of the detainees, said the soldiers knew what they were looking for and sought out the house of his brother who had served in Saddam Hussein's army.

"Someone must have informed on us," he said, although he denied that his arrested brothers, aged 20 to 30, were engaged in anti-American activities.

Minutes after the soldiers left, the Saleh house was crowded with sympathizing neighbors who tried to comfort the weeping mother.

"The resistance is going to increase," said Abdul Qader Fahd, 30, a teacher. "Dealing with civilians like this is terrorism."

In Khaldiyah, U.S. commanders said they were acting on a tip from an Iraqi man captured after he and two other men fired rocket-propelled grenades Saturday night at a routine U.S. patrol near an abandoned Iraqi ammunition dump. The other two men escaped and the prisoner pointed to two homes he said the insurgents had been using as a hideout.

When military police entered the homes, they found only families and a few hundred rounds of pistol and assault rifle ammunition buried in the backyard of one of them.

Female military police officers and medics stayed with the women and children as the troops searched the house, finding Iraqi Republican Guard uniforms and other military items, but nothing illegal.

In an old box used to transport artillery shells, the soldiers found strips of highly explosive cordite that had been emptied out of artillery shells.

Ibrahim Assam, a 30-year old man living in the house, said he and his father had sold their guns, but couldn't find a buyer for the ammunition. He said the children used the cordite to make fireworks.

"I don't know anything about attacks on the Americans," Assam insisted.

Next door, soldiers found one pound of C4 explosives on the roof along with a detonator cord.

The explosives appeared to come from an Iraqi ammunition dump about 1,000 yards away across an open field. Soldiers scanning the field spotted about 50 crates of artillery shells and a place nearby where looters were taking off the explosive warheads, dumping out the cordite and taking away the brass shells to sell as scrap metal.

U.S. troops had armed local volunteers to guard the hundreds of ammunition bunkers, but they had apparently failed to protect it at night.

As the low-flying helicopters spotted more ammunition cases on the roofs of other homes, they directed the military police to raid those buildings. The soldiers arrested eight more men, seized more C4 explosives weapons and anti-tank weapons. They allowed each family to keep an assault rifle for home protection.

The raids are not meant to disarm Iraqis completely. Heavy weapons such as rocket propelled grenade launchers are banned, as is taking weapons outside the home or workplace.

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

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