- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

BAGHDAD — Gunmen disguised as police fatally shot two American coalition officials and their Iraqi translator south of Baghdad after stopping their car at a roadblock, the Polish military said yesterday.

The Americans were the first U.S. civilians from the occupation authority to be killed in Iraq.

Farther south, Iraqi police clashed with a Shi’ite Muslim militia during a raid on a building that resulted in a gunbattle that killed four policemen and wounded two.

L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, has requested that the FBI investigate the slayings of the Americans late Tuesday on a road outside the town of Hillah, 35 miles south of Baghdad, coalition spokesman Dan Senor said.

It was not known whether the gunmen were targeting coalition officials.

“We’re starting to form views on that,” Mr. Senor said.

It also was not clear whether the Americans were traveling with security. Coalition guidelines discourage the movement of staff members after dark.

An officer with the Polish military, which patrols south-central Iraq, said the gunmen were disguised as policemen and stopped the Americans’ car at a checkpoint. The attackers shot the passengers and took the vehicle, Col. Robert Strzelecki said.

Polish troops later intercepted the car, arrested five Iraqis in it and found the bodies inside, Col. Strzelecki said, speaking from the Camp Babylon headquarters of the Polish-led multinational force in Iraq.

Mr. Senor did not identify the dead, pending notification of relatives.

The Americans, who were Defense Department employees, were the first U.S. civilians from the Coalition Provisional Authority to be killed in Iraq, he said.

An Army colonel working for the coalition was killed Oct. 26, when insurgents fired a barrage of rockets at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel while Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was visiting. Fifteen persons were wounded, and Mr. Wolfowitz escaped unharmed.

Civilian contractors also have been killed. Since the war began, 553 U.S. service members have died in Iraq, 379 of them from hostile action.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, Iraqi police tried to raid a building where a Shi’ite militia was holding two civilians on Tuesday night, a coalition spokesman said. In a gunbattle, four Iraqi policemen were killed and two wounded.

The standoff ended when Italian security forces stormed the building, rescued the civilians and arrested eight militia members, the spokesman said. One Italian Carabinieri officer was slightly injured.

The Shi’ite militia, known as Citizens’ Security Group, acts as a security force for some Shi’ite political parties.

In other developments yesterday, gunmen killed two police officers and critically wounded a third at a restaurant in the northern town of Qaim, near the Syrian border.

The Voice of America reported that an Iraqi translator for the organization was fatally shot with his mother and daughter on Friday by unknown assailants.

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