- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

BAGHDAD — Car bombers blasted targets in two Iraqi cities yesterday, killing 15 persons — including a U.S. soldier — and wounding 50. Six European soldiers died when munitions they were transporting exploded south of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military announced the rescue of four hostages — three Italians and a Pole. Separately, Iraqi militants disclosed they had kidnapped seven Turks and threatened to abduct more foreigners working with U.S. forces.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. officer in Iraq, announced the rescue but gave few details. He said the operation occurred south of Baghdad. He also said several suspects were arrested.

The Italian hostages, who were in Iraq as private security guards, were abducted in April. A fourth Italian was slain shortly after the kidnapping.

The Polish hostage was abducted last week after seven men stormed the Baghdad office of the Jedynka construction company.

Also yesterday, videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News showed three new Turkish hostages surrounded by armed men wearing masks. Four other hostages were shown to reporters separately.

The Europeans — two Poles, three Slovaks and a Latvian — were killed in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad. The deaths were the first fatalities for Slovak and Latvian forces in Iraq, Polish army spokesman Col. Zdzislaw Gnatowski said in Warsaw.

Poland has lost six soldiers in Iraq.

A bomb apparently went off in a truck carrying munitions to be defused, Col. Gnatowski said. Multinational force commander Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek told Poland’s TVN24 he could not rule out that the vehicle was hit by enemy fire.

The first of the car bombings occurred at a checkpoint just outside the gate of a U.S. military base in Baqouba, about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, Maj. Neal E. O’Brien said.

American troops were preparing to inspect a vehicle when it exploded, killing one U.S. soldier and five Iraqis, the U.S. military and police said. Fifteen Iraqis and 10 U.S. soldiers were wounded.

A second car bomb exploded in the northern city of Mosul as a convoy of provincial council members passed. The council members escaped injury, officials said. But nine persons died and about 25 were injured, the U.S. military said.

Afterward, attackers fired several mortar rounds at a coalition military base camp in Mosul, wounding two civilian contract employees.

More violence occurred in Anbar province, a Sunni Muslim area west of Baghdad that has been at the forefront of the Iraqi insurgency. The U.S. command announced that a Marine was killed in action there Monday.

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