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Baghdad bombs kill 2 US soldiers, 2 children
( 2003-12-29 09:31) (Agencies)

Roadside bombs in separate guerrilla attacks killed two U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi children on Sunday, including one explosion that went off in a densely populated part of Baghdad.

Meghan Kelly, 25, receives a warm welcome from her aunt, Alicia Kelly, in front of Meghan's home in Bellingham, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003. Meghan, who served in the U.S. Army as an Arabic linguist, returned home after several months in Iraq with the Bravo Company 325th Military Intelligence Batallion. [AP Photo]
Hundreds of weeping and wailing mourners buried victims of an attack the day before in the holy Shiite city of Karbala the biggest since the Dec. 13 capture of Saddam Hussein  as the death toll rose to 19.

In Sunday's first attack, a bomb planted beside a road in Baghdad killed two Iraqi children and an American soldier and wounded 14 people, said U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Compton of the Army's 1st Armored Division. The wounded include five American soldiers, their Iraqi interpreter and eight members of the Iraqi civil defense corps.

"It was a bad one," Compton said. "It's a real densely populated area of town."

Attackers detonated a second roadside bomb later Sunday as a U.S. convoy was traveling near Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, killing an American soldier and wounding three others.

The latest deaths bring to 325 the number of American combat deaths since the U.S.-led invasion in March.

Also Sunday, officials said they arrested five Iraqi suspects in the Karbala attacks, said Lt. Rafal Smilkowski of the Polish regiment that commands a multinational force in south-central Iraq.

The U.S. military said troops, acting on an informant's tip, uncovered about 580 rockets buried under dirt near Abayachi, a village northwest of Baghdad, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

The stash of 57-mm rockets was an unusually large find for coalition troops. "We ruined some arms dealer's day," Aberle said.

An official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party escaped an assassination attempt on Sunday, but three of his bodyguards were killed, police reported. Gunmen wounded Jwamair Atyia Kakawi, the party's deputy director for security, but not seriously, in an attack in the northern city of Irbil, police director Niriman Abdul-Hamid said.

Thousands of Iraqis gathered Sunday in the southern city of Najaf to mark the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Shiite cleric Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. A huge procession was led by a man wielding a sword and followed by young men who flagellated themselves with chains to symbolize the pain of the slain leader, whose killing is blamed on Saddam.

Iraqi boys check out a car that was overrun by a U.S. tank in the town of Samarra, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003. [AP Photo]
On Saturday night, bombs destroyed four liquor stores in the northern city of Kirkuk. Islamic militants have carried out similar attacks in the past since alcohol is forbidden under Islamic law.

In the Karbala attacks, four suicide car bombs, mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades blasted two military bases of the U.S.-led coalition force and the governor's office.

Six coalition soldiers, six Iraqi police officers and a civilian died Saturday. Four of the soldiers were Bulgarian and two were Thai. On Sunday, a Bulgarian lieutenant and five Iraqis wounded in the attacks died in the hospital, the Polish news agency PAP reported.

The attacks wounded more than 130 Iraqis and several dozen coalition soldiers, including five Americans and 26 Bulgarians, officials said.

In Thailand on Sunday, government and military officials debated the deployment, with one senator calling for a withdrawal of the country's 422 non-combat troops, mostly medics and engineers. The prime minister said the troops would stay in Iraq.

The Thai and Bulgarian troops are part of a multinational force of 9,500 soldiers led by Poland that controls south-central Iraq. Its commander, Gen. Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, said the coordinated assault was the most serious attack against coalition forces in the region.

"It was a coordinated, massive attack planned on a big scale and intended to do much harm," Tyszkiewicz said.

Insurgents might have targeted Karbala, some 70 miles south of Baghdad, on the assumption that troops there would be more vulnerable, less battle-tested than those in the Sunni areas north and west of Baghdad where fighting is more common.

Despite the latest attacks, U.S. military officials say the number of assaults has dropped from about 50 a day in mid-September to an average of 14 or 15 a day, spiking to 18 on Christmas Day.

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