- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Three U.S. soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad, and insurgents shot and wounded another soldier in an ambush northwest of the capital, the military said yesterday.

The military also said it has discharged three American soldiers for abusing Iraqi prisoners of war in southern Iraq.

The three were found guilty of beating and harassing prisoners at Camp Bucca during the U.S.-led war against Iraq, U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Vic Harris told Reuters news agency.

The three soldiers, all from Pennsylvania, have been sent back to the United States after months of investigations led to their administrative discharge by Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead III, the acting commander of the 143rd Transportation Command, Col. Harris said.

In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said British forces likely would remain in Iraq for years to come. He said he could not give an “exact time scale” for their withdrawal, but added, “It is not going to be months. … I can’t say whether it is going to be 2006, 2007.”

In northern Iraq, a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi man yesterday and wounded three others outside the city of Kirkuk, said Iraqi police Lt. Abdel Salam Zangana. Such bombs are a favored weapon of Iraqi guerrillas, and Lt. Zangana said he thought the bomb was intended for U.S. soldiers, but had detonated early.

The violence underscored remarks by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the U.S.-led coalition must “get on top of the security situation” in Iraq as the country prepares for self-rule.

Mr. Blair was in the southern city of Basra on Sunday for an unannounced visit to the 10,000 British troops serving in Iraq, the vast majority of which are stationed in and around Basra in southern Iraq.

Overnight, two mortar shells exploded in the vicinity of the coalition headquarters in the southern city of Nasiriyah, causing no damage or injuries, the U.S. military said.

The four American soldiers were wounded Sunday when insurgents ambushed a foot patrol in Tikrit, injuring one, and a bomb exploded as a U.S. convoy passed in Beiji, wounding three others, the military said.

All four were evacuated to combat-support hospitals for treatment, the military said.

Gunmen also wounded Mohammed al-Jawadi, a lawyer appointed by the U.S.-led coalition, and his son in the northern city of Mosul yesterday morning, witnesses said. Sources at the local hospital said Mr. al-Jawadi, the general prosecutor of a newly established court to fight corruption, was in critical condition, but his son’s life was not in danger.

In Washington, meanwhile, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday that whether the Kurdish regions of Iraq remain semiautonomous as part of a newly sovereign Iraq will be decided by the Iraqi people.

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