- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

BAGHDAD — A guerrilla attack killed three British soldiers and seriously wounded one in the southern port city of Basra yesterday. To the north, American forces reported killing two Iraqi Turkomen who opened fire when U.S. soldiers arrived to stop ethnic fighting in the city of Tuz Kharmato.

Despite continuing violence, sabotage and terror attacks — including the suicide bombing this week of U.N. headquarters — the American administrator for Iraq said the U.S.-led coalition would not slow efforts to rebuild the country, shattered by war and 13 years of U.N. sanctions.

“We have never hidden the fact that we have security problems in Iraq,” L. Paul Bremer said at a news conference.

Also in Baghdad, U.N. workers who had not left Iraq after the attack Tuesday resumed work in a cluster of tents set up at the battered Canal Hotel compound, former home of U.N. offices.

Investigators and soldiers searched piles of debris for human remains and clues in the truck bombing that killed at least 23 persons, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose memorial was held yesterday in his native Brazil.

One of the envoy’s dying wishes was for the United Nations to remain in Iraq and continue work to establish democracy, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told mourners.

“Let us respect that,” Mr. Annan said. “Let Sergio, who has given his life in that cause, find a fitting memorial in a free and sovereign Iraq.”

Back at work, U.N. staff embraced one other. Computers and office equipment were moved into portable, air-conditioned offices flown in from Italy.

“We are moving forward,” Ramiro Lopes da Silva said on his first day on the job as acting head of the U.N. mission in Iraq. The Portuguese diplomat’s right hand, forehead and ear were bandaged from the blast.

Mr. Bremer said it was too early to speculate on who carried out the bombing.

Addressing reports that he and the Iraqi Governing Council were increasingly at odds, Mr. Bremer said there was concern inside the council over the coalition’s inability to fully restore electricity, which has angered many Iraqi people. Mr. Bremer established the 25-member council as an interim government, though it has little real power.

“They share our frustration with not being able to restore essential services to prewar levels,” Mr. Bremer said, noting the coalition set an end-of-September goal for getting the lights back on permanently.

In Basra, the British military said a two-vehicle convoy was attacked by gunmen in a pickup truck as the soldiers traveled through the city center on a patrol about 8:30 a.m.

As of yesterday, the British government has reported 48 deaths since the war began. The American military says 273 U.S. soldiers have died since the beginning of military operations. Denmark’s military has reported one death.

In Tuz Kharmato, 110 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers killed two Turkomen tribesmen and wounded two others after the Americans were fired on when they arrived Friday to quell ethnic fighting, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman. She said it was the first ethnic conflict in the tense region since May.

Capt. David L. Swenson of the 173nd Airborne Brigade in Tuz Kharmato said several hundred Turkomen protesters were on the streets. The fighting reportedly broke out after Kurds destroyed a reopened Turkomen Islamic shrine.

Three Turks and five Kurds were killed and 13 persons wounded, Capt. Swenson said.

Violence continued late yesterday in nearby Kirkuk, where rocket-propelled grenades were fired at statues of two Turkomen heroes as gunfire punctuated the night. Squads of police were stationed at the statues after the attacks.

Earlier, Kirkuk Mayor Abdul Rahman Mustafa, a Kurd, said two persons were killed and several were wounded.

According to both CNN-Turk television and private NTV television in Ankara, Turkey, hundreds of Turkomen, carrying blue Turkomen flags, marched on the governor’s office. Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported two Turkomen were shot and killed and 11 wounded by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces.

As the United Nations resumed work yesterday, staff members complained that the U.S.-led coalition had done little to provide security in the area before the bombing.

“It was the coalition’s fault, because it was their job to watch the parking area where the bombing happened,” said security officer Mohammed Abdul Aziz.

The U.S.-led coalition claims responsibility for security in the country but says it has no obligation to guard specific sites such as the U.N. headquarters and diplomatic missions. U.S. troops are, however, guarding locations such as Iraqi banks and the Oil Ministry.

But Maj. Mark Johnston said soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division had temporarily taken control of security at the bombed hotel, which became U.N. headquarters in Baghdad after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

“It’s still a dangerous site. We are still in the recovery stage,” he said.

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