- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

BAGHDAD — Insurgents gunned down four U.S. Marines west of Baghdad yesterday, and South Korea said it would go ahead with plans to send thousands more troops to Iraq despite a threat by kidnappers to kill a South Korean seen pleading for his life on a videotape.

A U.S. Army soldier was killed yesterday and seven others were wounded in a mortar attack in north-central Baghdad, the U.S. command said. The casualties indicated no letup in attacks against Americans as the June 30 transfer of sovereignty draws near.

A videotape delivered to Associated Press Television News showed four Marines in uniform lying dead in what appeared to be a walled compound in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 60 miles west of Baghdad. One of the Marines was slumped in the corner of a wall.

The bodies had no flak vests — mandatory for U.S. troops in contested areas — and at least one was missing a boot. One field pack was left open next to a body as if the attackers looted the dead before fleeing.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy operations chief, confirmed the killings but gave few details. He said a U.S. quick-reaction force found the bodies after the troops failed to report to their headquarters as required.

American officials had been concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Ramadi, located along a belt of Sunni militancy running westward from Baghdad along the Euphrates River.

Last week, seven Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members were arrested for planting a roadside bomb that killed a policeman and wounded seven civilians in Ramadi.

Most of the kidnappings of foreigners in the past two months are thought to have occurred along that belt.

The South Korean government said it would go ahead with plans to send 3,000 troops to Iraq despite a threat by an Islamic extremist group to kill a South Korean man seen begging for his life on a videotape broadcast Sunday night by the Arab satellite television station Al Jazeera.

“Korean soldiers, please get out of here,” the man, Kim Sun-il, screamed in English. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important.”

Mr. Kim, 33, who works for a trading company in Baghdad, was thought to have been kidnapped about 10 days ago. The kidnappers claimed to be from the Monotheism and Jihad group led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is thought to have ties to al Qaeda.

The kidnappers set a deadline of 24 hours from sunset Sunday for South Korea to comply or they would “send you the head of this Korean, and we will follow it with the heads of your other soldiers.”

However, hours after the deadline passed, there was no word on Mr. Kim’s fate and Al Jazeera said it had received no new message from the kidnappers.

Once the deployment is complete, South Korea will be the largest coalition partner after the United States and Britain. South Korea now has 600 military medics and engineers in the southern city of Nasariyah.

South Korean medics in Nasariyah suspended free medical treatment to Iraqi patients because of security concerns stemming from the kidnapping, said Maj. Chun Heung-soo, a Defense Ministry spokesman in Seoul. He said the action should not be interpreted as a protest.

Hundreds of protesters attended a candlelight vigil in Seoul yesterday to demand the government reverse its decision to send more soldiers to Iraq.

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