BAGHDAD (Reuters) – One U.S. soldier was killed and five were wounded when an assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade at them in the restive Iraqi town of Falluja on Thursday, the U.S. military said.
It said the wounded soldiers, from the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, had been driven to a local military medical facility.
A U.S. military spokesman said two American soldiers had also been wounded in Baghdad when two attackers fired on them as they were guarding a bank. No details were available.
Falluja, 45 miles west of Baghdad, is a cauldron of hostility to U.S. forces, who killed 15 townspeople in two clashes there in April, following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The Arabic television channel al Jazeera quoted witnesses as saying the U.S. soldiers were attacked as they searched for gunmen who had fired on a police station used by U.S. forces.
A Reuters cameraman filmed troops out in force in the streets of the Sunni Muslim city. Soldiers were searching houses as residents were told to stay inside.
“Keep off the streets or you will be killed or wounded. The coalition forces do not want to hurt you. For your own safety, leave the area immediately,” said an Arabic message that blared repeatedly from a vehicle mounted with loudspeakers.
Bloodstains were visible on a wall and on the ground where the attack had taken place. Residents brandished a metal name tag which they said belonged to the dead American soldier.
U.S. troops backed by scores of tanks reinforced their presence in Falluja on Wednesday.
Last week, two U.S. soldiers were killed and nine wounded when gunmen attacked an American army unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms in the city.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General David McKiernan said on Wednesday that attacks on U.S. troops in the area are not organized and are the work of remnants of Saddam’s government, toppled by U.S. and British forces eight weeks ago.
At least 15 demonstrators were killed in two clashes with troops in late April, fueling calls for revenge among the population of 400,000 who belong to the largely pro-Saddam Dulaimi tribe.
Above: United States Army military police sweep a neighborhood to arrest suspected Ba’ath Party members in the Iraqi city of Falluja, about 60 km west of the capital Baghdad, June 6, 2003. A respected cleric in the city which has seen repeated attacks on U.S. troops called on Sunni Muslims on Friday to bide their time before trying to drive out the Americans, as war with them would be suicidal. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi