- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2003

BAGHDAD — After days of an intense search from the ground and air, U.S. forces found the bodies yesterday of two American soldiers missing north of Baghdad as the toll of American dead since the start of war passed the grim milestone of 200.

Also yesterday, British forces were greeted peacefully as they returned to a southern Shi’ite town where six of their troops were killed in clashes. And the U.S. military announced small rebuilding projects, including delivering school and medical supplies, and restoring power and water in several Iraqi towns.

The day’s events highlighted the pattern of progress and setback that has bedeviled the U.S.-led occupation, facing daily attacks that distract from the mission of reconstruction.

The soldiers’ remains were found 20 miles northwest of the capital, the military said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Roselle, N.J., and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, had disappeared along with their Humvee on Wednesday from the town of Balad, 25 miles north of Baghdad. No further details were immediately available.

In other violence, attackers lobbed a grenade at a U.S. convoy making its way through the predominantly Shi’ite Thawra neighborhood of northeast Baghdad late Friday, killing one American soldier and wounding four others, said military spokesman Sgt. Patrick Compton. A civilian Iraqi interpreter was also wounded, he said. No arrests were made, and no further details were immediately available.

Another soldier, shot in the neck Friday as he shopped at a Baghdad market, was listed in critical condition yesterday, Sgt. Compton said.

The deaths bring to at least 63 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since major combat was declared over May 1. The military has confirmed the identities of 138 soldiers killed before that date, while the names of several other casualties have not yet been made available.

In addition, 42 British troops have died in the conflict. The American death toll is still far below the 382 U.S. troops killed in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

“Combat is not over in this country,” a U.S. military spokesman said yesterday, amid signs that larger-scale military operations might kick off soon to eliminate armed resistance.

The spokesman, who briefed reporters on the customary condition of anonymity, blamed continued violence on Saddam Hussein’s loyalists, common criminals and outside agitators who have flocked to Iraq to resist the coalition occupation.

As attacks have increased, so has fear that anti-American resistance is becoming more organized. The U.S. military brushed off those assertions.

“We have always anticipated and were prepared for what we term as pockets of resistance,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nicholas Balice, a spokesman for Central Command in Tampa, Fla. “We anticipate that we’ll be dealing with the situation for some time.”

In other violence:

• Suspected insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades Friday at U.S. troops in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, causing no injuries or damage.

• A U.S. patrol came under small-arms fire late Friday near Habaniyah, just west of Fallujah, and U.S. troops returned fire. No injuries or damage were reported.

• A fire broke out at one of Baghdad’s largest textbook printing plants, sending thick, black smoke billowing over the capital. Coalition forces arrested two men. “We think it was an act of arson,” said Lt. Col. James Otwell, a civil affairs liaison working with the Iraqi fire department.

Saboteurs have been attacking Baghdad’s power grid and oil pipelines, foiling coalition efforts to restore basic services such as water and electricity, a source of frustration for ordinary Iraqis.

The setbacks have overshadowed progress made since the fall of Saddam’s regime. The vital oil industry has resumed, if only at a fraction of its prewar output, and will be pumping much-needed dollars into state coffers. Police and court systems are also coming back on line, providing hope for improved law and order despite an overwhelming crime wave.

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