- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb ripped through a U.S. military convoy yesterday, killing three Marines and providing graphic evidence that the formal end of the U.S. occupation has not halted attacks on American forces in Iraq.

The blast in eastern Baghdad was the first fatal attack on U.S. troops since American administrators transferred sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government.

Two Marines were wounded in the deadly explosion, which occurred on a four-lane highway in the Rustamiyah district. Also yesterday, assailants fired on a U.S. patrol in Baghdad’s Azimiya district, once a stronghold of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said an Iraqi civilian was killed in the Azimiya attack, but there were no American casualties.

Despite the end of the occupation, about 160,000 foreign troops — most of them Americans — remain in Iraq to provide security and train Iraq’s new security services.

A police officer and a civilian were killed when assailants attacked a police station in Mahmoudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad.

A roadside bomb in the northern oil center of Kirkuk injured a Kurdish district police chief and two others and killed his bodyguard.

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said at his first press conference since the transfer of sovereignty that the Iraqi Cabinet was discussing emergency measures to cope with the security crisis. He said he would announce details later this week.

Iraqi media have speculated the measures could include curfews and curbs on public demonstrations — at least in areas of the country where the insurgency is active.

Meanwhile, the newly sovereign government took steps to shore up its international standing.

In the government’s first official event, President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer accepted the credentials of three ambassadors from countries that have troops in Iraq, including U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte.

With the move, the United States and Iraq restored full diplomatic relations, which were severed shortly before the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when a U.S.-led coalition drove Saddam’s forces from Kuwait.

Other ambassadors presenting their credentials were Neil Mules of Australia and Torben Gettermann of Denmark.

In other developments yesterday, an Iraqi extremist group freed three Turkish hostages, Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, said. Al Jazeera TV reported the group was releasing the hostages “for the sake of their Muslim brothers.”

Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi, whose followers killed American Nicholas Berg last month and South Korean Kim Sun-il last week, claimed to have abducted the Turks.

Another militant group announced that it had killed Spc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio. The U.S. military said it could not confirm whether the man shown in a murky videotape was Spc. Maupin.

Another U.S. service member, Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, was also reported kidnapped in a tape sent to Al Jazeera.

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