- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

BAGHDAD — The daily shootings and rocket attacks against U.S. soldiers claimed two more lives, U.S. authorities said yesterday.

An American soldier was shot and killed near the city of Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, on Wednesday evening.

Another soldier was killed and one wounded Wednesday in a rocket-propelled grenade assault on a five-vehicle convoy near Baqouba, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Bill MacDonald of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

In Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital, three separate overnight mortar attacks targeted U.S. servicemen, but there were no reports of casualties, the military said.

The military also said a soldier died Wednesday in Balad, 55 miles north of the capital, from what it described as a nonhostile gunshot incident. There were no further details. Another American soldier stationed near Balad died of a nonhostile gunshot wound Monday. Soldiers at a nearby air base said he took his own life.

Since President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, at least 31 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile fire and 46 others have died in accidents and other nonhostile circumstances, a total of 77.

Attacks by pro-Saddam Hussein insurgents in recent weeks have threatened to drag Iraq’s American and British occupiers into a military and political quagmire. The U.S. military insists the resistance does not amount to a full-fledged guerrilla war, and says it has no evidence it is being coordinated on a nationwide level.

The military acknowledges, however, that the continued uncertainty over Saddam’s fate has fueled the rebels. Saddam has not been seen since the overthrow of his regime in April, though tapes purportedly of the ousted dictator have been aired on Arabic television since then. American officials are offering $25 million for information leading to the arrest of Saddam, and $15 million for each of his sons, Qusai and Uday.

Most of the attacks have taken place north and west of Baghdad in an area called the “Sunni Triangle,” known as a stronghold of Saddam supporters, although many residents deny that the former dictator, also a Sunni Muslim, still has followers among them. Fallujah, Ramadi and Baqouba are all in the triangle.

The attacks, as well as sabotage against Iraqi infrastructure, have stymied efforts to return security and vital services to the country. At night, gangs roam darkened streets, and killings and carjackings occur in broad daylight.

U.S. officials disputed complaints that Baghdad’s crime rate is out of control, saying it “is no worse than any American city.”

Coalition authorities said yesterday they expect it to cost $1.7 billion over five years to revamp Iraq’s dilapidated power industry. Lack of electricity — and thus air conditioning — in Baghdad has raised frustration, with the city suffering through temperatures up to 122 degrees.

Also yesterday, the military announced that U.S. forces recovered 12 Iraqi artifacts reportedly looted from the National Museum in Baghdad. The pieces included miniature statues, a skull and a clay bowl, all from about 3,200 B.C.-3,000 B.C. The artifacts were found wrapped in a rice bag in a raid on a Baghdad residence on Monday.

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