More U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Gunmen killed two American soldiers today while they were driving through the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and a crowd swarmed over the scene, looting the vehicle and pummelling the bodies, witnesses said.

Elsewhere, another US soldier was killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad, and three American civilian contractors were injured in an explosion in the northern oil centre Kirkuk. Initial reports said the blast was due to a mortar, but Lt. Col. Matt Croke said officials later concluded it was a bomb.

First reports quoted witnesses as saying the assailants slit the soldiers’ throats during the attack in Mosul’s Ras al-Jadda district. The 101st Airborne Division, however, said the soldiers were shot as they were driving between US garrisons.

Several other witnesses also said the soldiers were shot.

Bahaa Jassim, a teenager who saw the attack, said the vehicle crashed into a wall after the shooting. Several dozen passers-by descended on the vehicle, opening the door. After the bodies fell into the street, the crowd pummelled the bodies with concrete blocks and looted the car, stealing the weapons and backpacks, Jassim said.

He said a US patrol arrived and cordoned off the area.

A 4th Infantry Division soldier was killed today and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Baqouba, 35 miles north-east of Baghdad, the military said. US officials also said the chief of police in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, was killed today along with several of his officers. They gave no further details.

US officials have warned of more attacks against coalition forces as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan nears its end on Tuesday.

The blast in Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, occurred overnight on the compound of the National Oil Company. Three American employees of the US firm Kellogg Brown & Root suffered facial cuts from flying glass, Croke said. On Friday, insurgents rocketed the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where many KBR employees as well as international journalists and others stay. One civilian was wounded.

“We all know Americans are being threatened,” Croke said.

In Samara, about 75 miles north of Baghdad, Iraqi police said six US Apache helicopter gunships blasted marshland after four rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the American military garrison at the northern entrance to the city. One Iraqi passer-by was killed in the air attack.

Also today, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari named veteran Washington lobbyist Rend Rahim Francke as Iraq’s ambassador to the United States. Francke led the Iraq Foundation, a Washington-based pro-democracy group, and has helped in post-Saddam Hussein planning.

The appointment will renew diplomatic ties between Washington and Baghdad 13 years after they were severed in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Francke was born in Iraq.

Discussions about appointing an envoy came after an agreement between President George W. Bush’s administration and the Governing Council to hand over power to a new, transitional Iraqi government by the end of June.

The council also will soon appoint a replacement for a member assassinated two months ago, council member Mahmoud Othman said. Aquila al-Hashimi, a Shiite Muslim member of the 25-seat group, was murdered on September 20, the highest Iraqi official killed by suspected Saddam loyalists.

Her replacement is expected to be a Shiite Muslim since the Council, installed on July 13, has been divided proportionally between Iraq’s different sects and ethnic groups: 13 Shiite Arabs, five Kurds, five Sunni Arabs, one Christian and one ethnic Turk.

Yesterday, insurgents hit a civilian cargo plane with a surface-to-air missile, but the aircraft landed safely. The plane was the first civilian airliner to be hit by insurgents, who have shot down several military helicopters with shoulder-fired rockets. DHL and Royal Jordanian, the only commercial carrier flying into Baghdad, immediately suspended flights.

Suicide bombers struck two police stations north-east of Baghdad within 30 minutes on Saturday. In the market town of Khan Bani Saad, a Chevrolet Caprice sped through a guard’s gunfire yesterday morning and exploded at the station gate, police said.

The US military said 10 people were killed in one and four in the other.

Elsewhere, an Iraqi police colonel in charge of protecting oil installations was assassinated in northern Iraq, part of what appeared to be an insurgent campaign against US-backed security forces.

Col. Abdul-Salam Qanbar, who was in charge of a police force in the northern city of Mosul, was fatally shot yesterday evening while heading to a mosque, a spokesman said.

“It is clear the terrorists have targeted Iraqis, the very Iraqis who are trying to improve the security in Iraq and the lives of ordinary Iraqis,” coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.