Iraq attacks kill 2 GIs and Polish officer
( 2003-11-07 14:07) (Washington Post)
Two U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday in Iraq, one just hours before members of his unit commemorated the loss of troops in the downing Sunday of a Chinook helicopter west of Baghdad.
Also, peacekeepers from Poland suffered their first combat fatality.
A member of the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed in the morning when his truck hit a mine near the Syrian border, far northwest of Baghdad. Troops have been patrolling the border area, trying to intercept the foreign guerrillas who the Bush administration says have been slipping into Iraq with Syria's help. Iraqi officials say Islamic militants have flooded into Iraq not only from Syria but also from Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In the evening, several hundred soldiers from the 3rd Armored gathered in a field 200 miles northwest of the capital, according to news services, and held a memorial service for comrades killed Sunday when their troop transport helicopter was shot down near the town of Fallujah. The Defense Department said a soldier injured in the crash, Sgt. Paul F. Fisher of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died Thursday at a hospital in Germany, bringing the number of dead in the incident to 16.
At the memorial service, helmets were placed on upright M-16 rifles to represent the dead. Many in the crowd wore black cavalry hats, reflecting the 19th-century origins of the cavalry in the American West. A female soldier sang "Amazing Grace."
"Death was in the cause of freedom," said Col. David A. Teeples, the regiment's commander. "They were serving our country and answering our nation's call to fight terrorism."
He said that helicopter flights would continue, but with some "adjustment" in timing and flight paths.
The second U.S. victim, from the 82nd Airborne Division, was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack 15 miles south of Baghdad.
Attacks on U.S. positions and convoys have almost tripled since June, averaging 29 a day. U.S. combat fatalities total 140 since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1, compared with 114 dead in the offensive that brought down the government of Saddam Hussein.
In south-central Iraq, where Poland has contributed 2,400 troops to the U.S.-led occupation and took command of forces in the region in September, a Polish officer was killed in an ambush as he rode in a convoy near Al Mussaib, about 35 miles south of Baghdad.
Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk, 44, was returning to his base after attending a graduation ceremony for members of the new Civil Defense Corps, which will help guard public buildings and carry out patrols.
Several U.S. allies have been reluctant to send military forces to Iraq, either out of opposition to the American invasion or because of the turmoil that has gripped central Iraq, a stronghold of loyalists of the deposed government. A Japanese official visiting Iraq confirmed Thursday that Japan would send 550 noncombat troops next year to provide medical care to civilians and repair water and electrical utilities.
U.S. forces have faced particularly persistent resistance in the so-called Sunni triangle north and west of Baghdad. A senior Iraqi official said that the resistance contains two wings -- remnants of Hussein's Baath Party and Islamic fighters from a variety of Middle Eastern countries -- that have combined in a kind of marriage of convenience to oppose the occupation.
The official said foreigners are being guided into Iraq by Ansar al-Islam, an organization of Iraqi origin allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. During the war, Kurdish militia forces under U.S. command drove Ansar al-Islam out of mountain refuges in northeast Iraq. "Ansar is now very diffuse," said the senior Iraqi official. "They provide logistics and help the terrorists navigate through Iraq."
U.S. troops continue to raid suspected hide-outs. Military officials announced the discovery of several weapons caches and the detention of two former Iraqi army generals allegedly involved in attacks on Americans.
The military identified the Iraqis as Lt. Gen. Khamis Saleh Ibrahim Halbossi and Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Adwan Alwani, the Associated Press reported. Both were believed to have played a significant role in organizing the resistance in the Fallujah area, the military said.
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