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Patrol Attacked in Fallujah; One GI Dead

Patrol Attacked in Fallujah; One GI Dead

Posted - Oct. 20, 2003 at 7:14 a.m.



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FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Assailants ambushed a U.S. Army foot patrol just outside Fallujah at midday Monday, killing one American and wounding five others in the second day of attacks in this anti-U.S. hotbed west of Baghdad, the American command reported.

The patrol, from the 82nd Airborne Division, was first hit by an exploding homemade bomb, and then by small-arms fire, the military said. American troops then raided a nearby mosque in an apparent search for the attackers and detained three Iraqis.

It could not be learned immediately whether there were any Iraqi casualties, although two civilian trucks were damaged in the action, including one left dangling on a bridge, apparently from what witnesses said was a rocket-propelled grenade strike.

The attack occurred about 20 yards from the main bridge leading into Fallujah from Baghdad, 35 miles to the east, when about 30 soldiers on foot, accompanied by five Humvees, were on patrol along the highway.

This was the same general area where a U.S. Army ammunition truck, part of a convoy, broke down on the main road Sunday and came under attack. That truck and possibly two other vehicles apparently were hit by rocket-propelled grenades. Dozens of Iraqi youths danced and cheered as the vehicles went up in flames.

"I was fixing my car on the other side of the street, and Americans fired in a circular motion as they tried to leave," said Thaer Ibrahim, 30, who was wounded in the shoulder by U.S. fire.

Four other civilians were wounded, and one died later of shrapnel wounds, said Dr. Rafae al-Issawi, director of Fallujah General Hospital. In Baghdad, the U.S. command said there were no American casualties Sunday.

In another development Sunday, Iraq's interim leader called for an immediate mobilization of the old Iraqi army to help the harried Americans.

The United States would "speed the process of relieving the burden on its troops" by recalling the disbanded Iraqi military, said Iyad Allawi, current president of the Iraqi Governing Council. The idea got a cool reception from Baghdad's U.S.-led occupation authorities.

"I don't think there's a vast swath of people out there who want to serve in the Iraqi army," said a well-placed official of the occupation authority, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Americans are slowly rebuilding a new Iraqi army, having trained only a 700-man battalion thus far.

Late Saturday, attackers killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded a third in a clash outside the northern city of Kirkuk. The deaths in Kirkuk and Fallujah brought to 104 the number of Americans killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. A total of 339 Americans have died since the March 20 invasion of Iraq, 218 of them in combat.

In the attack near Kirkuk, 160 miles north of Baghdad, an American mounted patrol was ambushed by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman.

Early Sunday, about 30 miles west of that attack, U.S. troops were hit with grenades and small-arms fire near Hawija and killed three Iraqis when they returned fire, the 4th Infantry Division said.

The command reported 15 attacks on forces of the U.S.-led coalition in the 24 hours that ended at midday Sunday, down from a recent average of 22 a day. Most occur in the "Sunni Triangle," a Sunni Muslim-dominated area stretching from the west of Baghdad to the north. The area was a strong base of support for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime.

American officials blame the insurgency largely on die-hard Baathists, but many here believe other Iraqis resentful of the U.S. military presence have joined in the hit-run attacks.

In an opinion-page piece in Sunday's New York Times newspaper, Allawi, head of the 25-member Governing Council for October, said the decision by U.S. occupation officials to dissolve the 400,000-man Iraqi army after the war's end in April produced a "security vacuum that let criminals, die-hards of the former regime and international terrorists flourish."

It is "vital" to recall Iraqi army units now, six months after they disintegrated before the U.S.-British military advance, Allawi wrote. The U.S. government has had little success enlisting significant foreign military help in Iraq.

In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, U.S. troops detained four suspected high-level Baath party members and a former Republican Guard officer involved in arms sales to insurgents, the military said Monday.

A total of 19 suspects were detained in four separate raids and a huge weapons cache was uncovered in one location, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Of the suspects, four turned out to be high-level Baath party members and another was a former Republican Guard special forces officer believed involved in arms sales to anti-coalition forces, according to Aberle.

Three other suspects were implicated in mortar attacks on U.S. troops in the Balad area, between Baghdad and Tikrit, 120 miles north of the capital.

Also, U.S. troops acting on a tip from an Iraqi informer discovered a huge weapons cache in Taji, just north of Baghdad, Aberle said.

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

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