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Three British Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Three British Soldiers Killed in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A guerrilla attack killed three British soldiers and seriously wounded one on Saturday in the southern port city of Basra. To the north, American forces reported killing two Iraqi Turkomen who opened fire when U.S. soldiers arrived to stop ethnic fighting in the city of Tuz Kharmato.

In Baghdad, some U.N. staff returned to work in tents set up at the battered Canal Hotel compound. Investigators and soldiers searched piles of debris there for human remains and clues in the deadly suicide truck bombing Tuesday that killed at least 23 people, including the top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The American administrator for Iraq said acts of terrorism and sabotage only hurt the Iraqi people and would not slow the U.S.-led effort to rebuild the country, shattered by decades of war and 13 years of U.N. sanctions.

L. Paul Bremer also addressed reports that he and the Governing Council he established as an interim government were increasingly at odds. He said the Iraqis had expressed concern over the coalition's inability to fully restore electricity service.

"They share our frustration with not being able to restore essential services to prewar levels," Bremer said, noting the coalition had set an end-of-September goal for getting the lights back on permanently.

Bremer also said he had encouraged the 25-member governing council to reach out to the Iraqi people to join in the reconstruction and security of Iraq. "We have never hidden the fact that we have security problems in Iraq," he told a news conference.

He refused to speculate on who was responsible for Tuesday's suicide bombing. His top security adviser, Bernard Kerik, has said there are suspicions the bombing was an inside job. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, said the placement and timing of the bomb suggested insider knowledge.

"It is too early to know, the investigation goes on," Bremer said, adding there were three possibilities: members of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, foreign terrorists or a combination of the two.

The British military said a two-vehicle convoy was attacked by a group of gunmen in a pickup truck as the soldiers were traveling through the center of Basra on a routine patrol at 8:30 a.m.

As of Saturday, 273 U.S. soldiers have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, according to the military. The British government has reported 48 deaths. Denmark's military has reported one death.

On or since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 135 U.S. soldiers have died here, according to the latest military figures. Counting only combat deaths, 65 Americans and 11 Britons have been killed.

In Tuz Kharmato, 110 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers killed the two Turkomen tribesmen and wounded two others after the Americans were fired on when they arrived Friday, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman. She said it was the first outbreak of ethnic conflict in the region since May.

There were unconfirmed reports that deadly clashes between the Turkomen and Kurds erupted after minority Kurds allegedly destroyed a newly reopened Turkomen Islamic shrine. The reports claimed five Turkomen and three Kurds were killed.

Violence continued Saturday, according to CNN-Turk television and private NTV television. Hundreds of Turkomen, carrying blue Turkomen flags, marched on the governor's office in Kirkuk, to the north of Tuz Kharmato. Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported two Turkomen were shot and killed and 11 wounded by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces.

U.S. soldiers also discovered a MiG 23 fighter jet, partially buried and covered with camouflage netting, and an anti-aircraft gun north of Balad, 55 miles north of Baghdad. Aberle said they also discovered a weapons cache including six mortars, three cases of mortar rounds and 25 crates of anti-aircraft ammunition.

Aberle said U.S. troops wounded two young Iraqis Friday night after curfew in Dhuluaiyah, 43 miles north of Baghdad after they came upon a group of 17 young men loitering at a gas station.

When troops arrived, the men began to run, she said. After soldiers fired two warning shots, 15 of the group stopped, but the two who continued to run were shot in the legs. All were detained and being questioned.

Meanwhile, international and Iraqi U.N. staff complained the U.S.-led coalition had done little to provide security in the area before the bombing.

"It was the coalition's fault, because it was their job to watch the parking area where the bombing happened, ... but it seems they were incapable of that," said security officer Mohammed Abdul Aziz.

The coalition claims responsibility in the country in general but says it has no obligation to guard specific sites such as the U.N. headquarters and diplomatic missions. However, U.S. troops are guarding locations such as Iraqi banks and the oil ministry.

Maj. Mark Johnston said soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division had taken control of security at the bombed hotel, that became U.N. headquarters in Baghdad after the 1991 Gulf War.

"It's still a dangerous site. We are still in the recovery stage," he said.

Iraqi employees and guards at the compound were being questioned by American authorities on the suspicion that the suicide truck bombing could have been an inside job. Many of the security guards at the hotel had been in place before the war and were linked to Saddam's security service.

The truck was as close as it could have been to the office of Vieira de Mello and the bomb went off as a high-level official meeting was in progress in the office.

A Brazilian air force plane carrying Vieira de Mello's body arrived in Rio de Janiero Saturday morning along with his wife and two children.

Military bands played Brazil's national anthem as the casket -- draped in the bright green, yellow and blue Brazilian flag -- was carried by soldiers wearing white uniforms in an airport arrival ceremony that was short and solemn at the request of relatives.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were expected to attend a memorial service.

Eighty-six seriously wounded U.N. workers were being airlifted out of Iraq for medical care.

Two U.N. employees were still unaccounted for and an unknown number of people -- visitors to the building -- were still buried in the rubble. The U.N.'s official death toll stood at 20. However, independent checks by The Associated Press at area hospitals showed at least 23 died in the blast.

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

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