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Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Two American soldiers were killed near Baghdad and along the Syrian border, the U.S. military said Thursday, and Polish forces suffered their first combat death when a Polish major was fatally wounded in an ambush south of the capital.

The new violence occurred as a senior Japanese official said his country would honor its commitment to send peacekeepers to Iraq despite the heightened threat to Japanese military and civilian personnel.

Yukio Okamoto, top diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said withdrawing from Iraq would send the wrong message to "terrorists who seek to thwart international support efforts," the Kyodo news agency reported Thursday.

However, a senior figure from the U.S.-led coalition warned that the Americans and their allies face a "rough winter" of attacks by insurgents.

One soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed about 8 a.m. Thursday when his truck hit a land mine near the Husaybah border crossing point with Syria 195 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military said.

A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others wounded when their patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, about 8 p.m. Wednesday, the military said.

Their deaths brought to 140 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in the invasion, which began March 20.

The Polish officer was shot Thursday during an ambush near Karbala as he and 15 other Polish soldiers were returning from a promotion ceremony for the Iraqi civil defense corps. He died later in hospital, Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski. There were no other Polish casualties.

Elsewhere, two U.S. soldiers were slightly injured Thursday afternoon when several mortars were fired at an American command post in Mosul, the military said.

Two rockets were fired Wednesday evening at a U.S. civil-military operations center in Samara north of Baghdad but caused no damage or casualties, Maj. Jossyln Aberle, spokeswoman of the 4th Infantry Division, said Thursday.

Troops from the division also arrested 14 people, including a suspected member of a local terrorist cell and a weapons dealer, during at least seven raids north of Baghdad, Aberle said.

The chief British representative here, Jeremy Greenstock, said coalition forces face a "rough winter" of attacks, The Times of London newspaper said in Wednesday's edition.

Greenstock, Britain's former ambassador to the United Nations, also said it would be difficult to defeat the insurgents without the sort of heavy-handed measures that would further alienate the Iraqi people, the newspaper said.

Okamoto, the Japanese adviser, was visiting Iraq in preparation for the deployment of Japanese troops. The Japanese plan to send a 150-member advance contingent to southern Iraq by the end of the year and 550 soldiers early next year to provide water, medical care and other services.

The Japanese are expected to be deployed in a quiet sector of southern Iraq along the Euphrates River near Samawah.

Escalating attacks against coalition forces and threats of terrorist attacks have prompted three coalition members -- Spain, the Netherlands and Bulgaria -- to withdraw diplomatic personnel from Baghdad, although none of the U.S. partners has moved to reduce military personnel here.

Concern over security mounted after a series of attacks around the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began here Oct. 27. In attacks this month, insurgents have rocketed the Al-Rasheed Hotel, fired mortars at the coalition headquarters compound in Baghdad and shot down a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, killing 15 U.S. troops and injuring 21.

Iraqi politicians have suggested establishing a new paramilitary force with broad intelligence-gathering and arrest powers to help coalition troops combat the insurgents.

In a statement Wednesday, the coalition said chief administrator L. Paul Bremer was "open to discussing the proposal" but did not know if the Iraqis would accept his conditions.

The statement, by Bremer's spokesman Dan Senor, said the new force must be approved by U.S. and Iraqi authorities and exclude "extremists and former regime loyalists."

Members must be integrated into the command structure of the Iraqi administration, coordinated with coalition forces, trained in human rights protection and investigation, and "committed to serve on behalf of all citizens of a unified Iraq."

"There will be no units that represent a political party, faction or ethnic group," Senor said.

"To date, however, we are still learning whether the advocates of a new policy are prepared to work within this framework," Senor said. "These are concerns that Ambassador Bremer and (coalition) spokespersons have been articulating for several months."

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

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