- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, March 24 (UPI) — Jordanian newspapers said Monday four Jordanian university students were killed in Iraq as they were trying to return to their country from the northern city of Mosul.

They said Sufian Batayneh, Abdullah Ababneh, Ahmad al-Bath and Imran Sreihin were "martyred" on Saturday near a gas station in Mosul, which was targeted by U.S.-British bombardment in the war against Iraq.

Their death brings to five the total number of reported Jordanians killed since the United States and Britain launched military operations against Iraq early Thursday.

A Jordanian driver was killed on the Baghdad-Amman highway near the Jordanian border on the first day of military operations.

The papers said the students were trying to return to Jordan via Syria.

A large advertisement obituary in the official mass circulation daily, al-Rai, offered the family of al-Bath "sincerest congratulations on the martyrdom of their young son, who was martyred on the steadfast and heroic Iraqi earth as a result of the brutal American-British aggression."

Another obituary by the family of the same victim offered their cousin condolences who "was martyred by the barbaric American-British-Zionist bombardment of our beloved Iraq."

The papers there were "conflicting reports about the incident and it was unclear whether the deaths were a result of a road accident or an air raid."

It added the foreign ministry was working on returning their bodies to Jordan.

Editors at official and semi-official newspapers said the news item was relatively small and buried "so as not to further inflame" public anger at the U.S.-British war on neighboring Iraq.

Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb said Sunday it was "regrettable that Jordanians fell in this war, but we also regret the Iraqi victims."

The authorities have in recent days violently prevented scores of anti-war protests in schools and universities.

In a related incident Sunday, Jordan expelled five Iraqi diplomats on security grounds, but denied the move had anything to do with a U.S. request.

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