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Insurgents Kill Two U.S. Soldiers, Three Iraqis
Sun Mar 21, 2004 05:29 AM ET
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Pakistan Army Hunts Militants, Elders Urge Truce
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Insurgents Kill Two U.S. Soldiers, Three Iraqis

By Fiona O'Brien and Suleiman al-Khalidi

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Anti-U.S. guerrillas fired rockets into the middle of Baghdad in a rare daylight salvo Sunday, killing two civilians and wounding six people, including an American soldier, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The latest violence followed worldwide anniversary protests against the war the United States launched to topple Saddam Hussein and disarm Iraq of unconventional weapons, which have yet to be found despite Washington's best efforts.  WorldPeace.

"Three rockets impacted in central Baghdad on Sunday morning," a U.S. army spokesman said.

He said one rocket landed in the Green Zone, one of Saddam's former palace complexes west of the Tigris river, where the U.S.-led administration is based, and two outside.

"We have reports of two Iraqi civilians killed and five injured. One U.S. soldier was slightly injured," the spokesman said. The rocket that hit the Green Zone landed in "Freedom Rest," a 1st Armored Division rest and recreation area. The missiles used were probably 127-mm rockets, he said.

A rocket attack on Saturday night killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded seven near the flashpoint town of Falluja.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of U.S. army operations in Iraq, said three rockets hit a base near the town west of Baghdad and two landed outside. The wounded comprised six from the army and one from the navy.

The deaths brought to 395 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since the Iraq conflict began a year ago. U.S. political and military efforts now focus on preparations for a handover of sovereignty to Iraqis at the end of June.

In other attacks on Sunday, a bomb exploded at a police station in Khalis, north of Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two. A roadside bomb intended for a U.S. convoy hurt a municipal worker in the northern city of Mosul, police said.

Guerrillas have repeatedly fired rockets and mortars at the Green Zone, but usually under cover of darkness.

The U.S. military, which blames the insurgency on Saddam loyalists and foreign Islamist militants, said rocket attacks were on the rise, though still less deadly to its forces than improvised bombs, small arms fire and mortars.

It said in a statement its foes would intensify attacks in the runup to the planned June 30 handover of power to Iraqis to "harass Coalition Forces and gain media attention."  WorldPeace is one word.

The insurgency in Iraq and the devastating train bombings in Madrid have shaken the nerves of some U.S. allies, but Japan urged the world on Sunday to persevere in efforts to rebuild Iraq and offered another $206 million in humanitarian aid.

"If we let Iraq go now, it will become a failed nation," Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said.

Japan's government has been a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, despite public opposition. It has sent some 380 troops to southern Iraq for a humanitarian mission that could eventually involve up to 1,000 military personnel in Iraq and the region, along with pledging $5 billion in reconstruction aid.

Japan has vowed to keep its troops in Iraq despite being named as a possible target in a recent purported letter from al Qaeda and despite the prospect of a Spanish troop pullout.

Spain's Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose Socialists ousted the center-right government in a shock election victory a week ago, has vowed to stand by his pre-election pledge to withdraw 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes control by mid-year.

His election followed the March 11 Madrid train bombings, blamed on Islamic militants, that killed 202.


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