- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military clamped down on unruly western Baghdad yesterday, sending hundreds of soldiers to patrol an area where a string of gun and bomb attacks killed one American and wounded several others.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in neighboring Kuwait ahead of a visit to British forces serving in southern Iraq.

“I want to see the British troops to thank them for their magnificent performance during the Gulf conflict,” Mr. Blair told reporters on his chartered aircraft as it flew to Kuwait.

Mr. Blair will cross into Iraq today, the official Kuwait News Agency said. British troops are serving mostly in and around Basra in southern Iraq.

U.S. and British occupying forces have been struggling to restore order in Iraq. Eight American soldiers have died and nearly two dozen others have been wounded around the country this week.

In the Baghdad neighborhood targeted in yesterday’s sweep, one soldier died in an attack Sunday after the Humvee in which he was traveling was hit by an explosive placed along a highway.

At least five soldiers have been injured in a series of incidents in the neighborhood, including two grenade attacks on a police station and three highway attacks on moving U.S. military vehicles.

The U.S. military sweep through western Baghdad began at 3 a.m. and was expected to end last night. No details on the operation were available.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops detained a Palestinian diplomat in Baghdad yesterday, and a new council in the volatile northern oil city of Kirkuk elected a Kurdish mayor.

Soldiers handcuffed Palestinian charge d’affaires Najah Abdul Rahman and four other men outside what Saddam Hussein’s government recognized as the Palestine Embassy.

The troops said the men had illegal weapons, but it was not clear what prompted them to disarm a Palestinian diplomat in a city awash with arms seven weeks after Saddam’s overthrow.

As a military truck took him away, Mr. Abdul Rahman denied he had been carrying a gun. “They searched the embassy. … They are targeting the embassy,” he told reporters.

A Palestinian source in Baghdad said later that nine other Palestinians, including the three guards at the mission, also had been detained.

He said the U.S. troops put barbed wire around the building and locked the main gate.

U.S. and Palestinian officials had no immediate comment on Mr. Abdul Rahman’s detention, which occurred as Washington was trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to implement a “road map” for Middle East peace.

The sweep through western Baghdad came a day after Iraqis opened fire in Fallujah, about 30 miles west of Baghdad, killing two U.S. soldiers.

Hours later, two American military police officers were wounded in grenade assaults in Baghdad.

In other developments yesterday:

• A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists said an April 8 U.S. attack on a Baghdad hotel that killed two cameramen was avoidable, disputing the Pentagon’s claim that the shelling was in response to hostile fire from the hotel.

• Inspectors from a U.N. agency investigating Iraq’s largest nuclear complex, at Tuwaitha, will leave a few days later than planned, delaying their departure until next week, a spokeswoman said.

• The U.S. Treasury Department said it was lifting most remaining sanctions on Iraq, freeing U.S. companies to engage in many normal trade and investment opportunities without first having to obtain government approval.


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