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Insurgents Kill Three U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Insurgents Kill Three U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents killed three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian in separate attacks, and a militant group threatening to kill its Filipino hostage extended until Tuesday its deadline for Manila to agree to withdraw peacekeepers early.

The Philippine government previously rejected that ultimatum.

Also, Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said his government will soon offer an amnesty to those who have fought against the U.S.-led coalition, a British newspaper reported Monday.

"We are offering an amnesty definitely, for people who have not committed too many atrocious acts," al-Yawer was quoted as telling The Financial Times. "Everybody except murderers, rapists and kidnappers."

He said the amnesty would be offered within "a couple of days."

The proposal was first mentioned earlier this month by a spokesman for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, signaling the new government's desire to distance itself from the 14-month U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Also, Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, said Sunday the country would honor the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and other international agreements banning the use of chemical and biological weapons.

"Iraq officially declares it will be a country free of any weapons of mass destruction," al-Rubaie said. "Iraq will never again resort to threatening its neighbors, as Saddam did."

Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of such weapons was one of President Bush's declared reasons for invading Iraq. The hunt for weapons of mass destruction has proved largely unsuccessful.

On Sunday afternoon, a roadside bomb exploded as U.S. patrol passed in Samarra, a hotbed of violence 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding three others, the military said.

Earlier, a U.S. convoy was attacked in Beiji, 90 miles south of the northern city of Mosul. After a roadside bomb exploded, an enemy vehicle raced toward the convoy and fired at the soldiers, who shot back and killed the driver, the military said.

A soldier and a civilian traveling behind the patrol were killed. A second soldier was injured and evacuated. Thick black smoke enveloped the area from an oil tanker set ablaze in the attack.

The deaths came a day after four U.S. Marines were killed in a vehicle accident near Camp Fallujah in western Iraq. At least 875 service members have died since the military operations in Iraq began last year, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Of those, at least 651 died as a result of hostile action.

Also Sunday, insurgents fired mortar rounds at the Abu Ghraib prison, the center of a scandal involving alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. guards. One person was injured.

The attack was the third by insurgents on the facility since a mortar attack on in April killed 22 Iraqi detainees and wounded over 100, the military said. Coalition forces are now holding over 2,300 Iraqis for taking part in activities threatening the coalition forces and their Iraqi allies.

Militants from a group calling itself The Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin Al-Waleed Corps extended their deadline for the Philippine government to agree to withdraw its 51 peacekeepers. Initially, the group gave Manila until Sunday night to agree to a July 20 pullout or it would kill Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz.

That July 20 pullout would be a month earlier than scheduled.

But the Philippine government said Saturday it was sticking to the scheduled Aug. 20 date because of "our commitment to the free people of Iraq." The government also said dela Cruz had been freed, but the militants denied that in a message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television.

On Sunday, the group said the government had until Tuesday to change its mind.

"There are good signals that the extension of the deadline has been given (for) another 48 hours," Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas told ABS-CBN TV on Monday from Dubai as she accompanied dela Cruz's wife and brother on a trip originally destined for Baghdad.

When the delegation arrived in Amman, Jordan, later Monday, Santo Tomas said it would not be going to Baghdad. She did not elaborate.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said Monday that discussions to obtain dela Cruz's release were continuing "through the efforts of our close friends and contacts."

In a video purportedly from the militants broadcast Sunday on the Arab television station Al-Arabiya, a masked man holding a sword said dela Cruz will no longer be a hostage if the Philippines complies but instead will be held as a protected prisoner of war.

After Filipino troops leave, he would be released, the man said.

A militant deadline for two other hostages -- Bulgarian truck drivers held by a separate group demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees -- expired Saturday morning. The militants had threatened to execute the Bulgarians if the U.S. military did not release all Iraqi detainees by the deadline.

On Sunday, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said he had unconfirmed information the hostages were still alive.

Pasi appealed to the hostage takers, saying Islam calls for "mercy for the poor, the hungry and the sick." He said one hostage, Georgi Lazov, had diabetes, while the other, Ivaylo Kepov, had suffered a stroke.

The group holding the Bulgarians -- the Tawhid and Jihad movement linked to Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- also claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack on a military headquarters in Samarra that killed five U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi National Guardsman.

To prevent the infiltration of foreign fighters, Syria and Iraq agreed to create a special force to patrol their 360-mile shared border, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Sunday in Damascus, Syria, after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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