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U.S. Repulses 2 Suicide Bombers in Iraq

U.S. Repulses 2 Suicide Bombers in Iraq

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TALAFAR, Iraq (AP) -- The U.S. military repulsed two suicide attacks on American bases Tuesday -- one here in the far north and a second in Baghdad -- thwarting bombers with stepped-up defenses after a series of deadly suicide attacks stretching back to August.

Only eight U.S. soldiers had to be evacuated for treatment in both attacks, the latest in the string of suicide missions that have hit mainly non-American targets.

Near Fallujah, 30 miles west of the capital, witnesses said guerrillas hit a U.S. reconnaissance helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, forcing it to make a hard landing. The two crew members walked away, the military said.

The attack on this base 30 miles north of Mosul occurred at 4:45 a.m. when an explosives-packed car drove to the base gate. Guards there and in a watchtower opened fire on the vehicle. Moments later it exploded, leaving a large crater just outside the base gate.

Col. Michael Linnington, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which controls the Mosul region and the area west to the Syrian border, said the attacker's remains were "all over the compound."

Maj. Trey Cate, spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division, said 59 soldiers were injured.

"Eight soldiers were medically evacuated, of which four were sent to Baghdad," Cate said. The other 51 soldiers were slightly injured by debris and flying glass, he said.

Several Iraqis were injured, including a translator at the base. The blast damaged nearby homes. A 2-year-old girl was among many civilians hurt by flying glass.

The early morning blast occurred when most soldiers were still in their barracks, and there was no traffic around the gate.

Pieces of the attacker's car were scattered hundreds of yards away. A school across the street from the military compound was heavily damaged, but no pupils were injured. School was not yet in session.

Hazem Ismail, a 40-year-old school teacher, said several pieces of the car hit his house, shattering the window of room where his five children were sleeping.

"The kids woke up terrified from their beds, but thank God none of them were harmed," he said.

Later Tuesday, the second suicide attacker blew himself up outside a U.S. Army compound near Baghdad, slightly injuring two soldiers, the military said.

A man acting suspiciously walked toward the gates of the base in Husseiniya, 15 miles northeast of Baghdad, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a U.S. military spokeswoman. When military police opened fire after the man refused to stop, he blew himself up.

Suicide attackers in Iraq have seldom, if ever, attempted attacks with explosives attached to their bodies. Vehicle bombs have been the norm.

Also Tuesday, the military reported three U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade died and one was injured in an accident when an embankment collapsed beneath their armored personnel carriers north of Baghdad.

The deaths bring to 448 the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20. Of those, 308 have died as a result of hostile action.

In Baghdad, three people were killed and two were injured early Tuesday when a bomb exploded in the courtyard of a mosque in western Baghdad, police said. Firefighters said the bomb consisted of two or three rocket-propelled grenades that had been placed near the wall of the mosque.

"Those who carried out the attack have nothing to do with any religion," said Farouk Khamis, the mosque's imam. "They are ordinary criminals who targeted believers doing their prayers."

Ahmed Hussein, the mosque's prayer leader, said the explosion occurred at 6:45 a.m. and that it damaged the building and several cars parked nearby.

Giving a boost to the U.S.-led occupation, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet on Tuesday approved a plan to send about 1,000 soldiers to help in Iraq's reconstruction in that nation's biggest overseas troop deployment since World War II.

The Japanese troops will go to southeastern Iraq, where they will restore water services, offer medical and other humanitarian assistance and help rebuild schools. The troops will involve elements of Japan's land, sea and air forces, and were to begin leaving within the month.

After the Cabinet meeting, Koizumi told the nation the troops were necessary.Opposition leaders say the move could draw the troops into combat and violate Japan's postwar pacifist constitution.

"We are not going to war," Koizumi said. "The situation in Iraq is severe. We know it is not necessarily safe. But our Self-Defense Forces must still fulfill this mission."

On Tuesday, guards at the embassy of Bangladesh in Baghdad said the ambassador and his four-member staff had left the country. There was no immediate explanation for the departure.

In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, U.S. troops arrested eight suspects in pre-dawn raids Tuesday. Three of those captured were believed to have ties to guerrilla cells attacking American troops and Iraqi civilians, the U.S. military said.

"They were involved in bomb making and bomb placing activities ... and we have found evidence to suggest that is true," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, which is based here. "We were after trigger-pullers this time."

U.S. soldiers have been battling guerrillas in Tikrit for months, raiding homes and villages in an attempt to round up those organizing and funding the ambushes, and those building and placing roadside bombs that have killed or wounded dozens of soldiers.

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

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