- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2005

BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb killed seven U.S. soldiers in northwest Baghdad and two Marines were killed in action in western Iraq yesterday, the deadliest day for American forces since a suicide attack last month, the U.S. military said.

The soldiers with Task Force Baghdad were on patrol yesterday evening when their Bradley fighting vehicle hit the explosive, the military said. Everyone inside the vehicle was killed.

No other details were immediately available about the latest attack. But Iraq’s insurgents frequently have targeted American troops with explosives planted in roads and detonated remotely as patrols pass.

The Marines were killed in action earlier in the day in the volatile western Anbar province. The day’s toll was the highest for the U.S. military in Iraq since a suicide bombing at a mess tent in Mosul on Dec. 21 killed 22 persons, including 14 U.S. service members and five American contractors.

In other developments yesterday, police in the northern city of Mosul said the bodies of 18 young Iraqi Shi’ites killed last month while seeking work at a U.S. base have been found in a field. In Baghdad, the interim Iraqi government extended a state of emergency for a month because of violence ahead of landmark elections.

Police said the terrorists shot the 18 men, who ranged in age from 14 to 20, execution style on Dec. 8 after stopping their two minibuses about 30 miles west of the volatile city, 225 miles north of Baghdad.

Their hands were tied behind their backs and each was shot in the head, police said. All the men were Shi’ite Muslims from Baghdad’s northern neighborhood of Kadhimiya who had been hired by an Iraqi contractor to work at a U.S. base in Mosul.

The bodies were discovered Wednesday, the same day a suicide attacker blew up an explosives-laden car outside a police academy south of Baghdad in Hillah during a graduation ceremony, killing 20 persons.

A second car bomber killed five Iraqi policemen in Baqouba Wednesday.

In a statement posted on a Web site yesterday, the al Qaeda in Iraq group, led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, took responsibility for both the Hillah and the Baqouba attacks. The United States has offered a $25 million reward for Zarqawi’s capture.

The state of emergency, originally announced two months ago, was extended for 30 days throughout the country except for the Kurdish-run area in northern Iraq, a government statement said. The decree includes a nighttime curfew and gives the government additional power to make arrests.

“We expect some escalation [of attacks] here and there” ahead of Jan. 30 elections, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said. “This is a precaution to protect the Iraqi people as well as the elections.”

In a separate execution-style incident, the bodies of three Jordanian truck drivers shot in the head were discovered on the outskirts of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, an Associated Press photographer at the scene said yesterday. A note placed on one of the bodies warned: “This is the fate of anyone who cooperates with the Americans.”

Police also discovered two beheaded Iraqi policemen, their bodies charred from a fire yesterday in a house in Basra used by election officials to organize the Jan. 30 national vote, a police official said.

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