- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

BAGHDAD — Poland suffered its first combat death since the aftermath of World War II when a Polish major was fatally wounded yesterday in an ambush south of Baghdad. Two American soldiers died in attacks near the capital and along the Syrian border.

In al-Assad, a windblown desert base 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, hundreds of soldiers, some wearing ceremonial spurs and black regimental hats, remembered 15 comrades killed last weekend when their helicopter was shot down in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces since the Iraq war began March 19.

The Polish officer was wounded when insurgents attacked a convoy of 16 Polish soldiers returning from a promotion ceremony for Iraqi civilian defense trainees near Baghdad. Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk, 44, died at a military hospital in Karbala, the Polish Defense Ministry said.

None of the other Polish soldiers was killed or wounded, said Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski.

“This tragic event proves that the situation in Iraq is getting complicated,” Mr. Szmajdzinski told reporters in Warsaw. “The level of professionalism of the terrorists is increasing.”

Elsewhere, one U.S. soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed yesterday when his truck hit a land mine near the Husaybah border crossing point with Syria nearly 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military said.

A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others were wounded when their patrol came under rocket-propelled-grenade and small-arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, late Wednesday, the military said.

Their deaths brought to 140 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in action before Mr. Bush’s declaration.

At al-Assad, U.S. troops honored their 15 colleagues killed Sunday when insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter. Most of the soldiers were headed to home leave in the United States and elsewhere. Twenty-one soldiers were wounded in the attack.

“Death was in the cause of freedom. They were serving our country and answering our nation’s call to fight terrorists,” said Col. David A. Teeples, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “We honor them for their sacrifice. We honor them as Americans, as soldier and as family.”

The number of daily attacks on coalition forces dropped to 29 last week from a spike of 37 a week earlier, a U.S. military spokesman said yesterday.

The Polish major was the first Polish soldier killed by hostile fire in more than a half-century of post-World War II peacekeeping missions.

The United States, Britain and now Poland are the only coalition members to have suffered combat deaths in Iraq.

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