- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

MOSUL, Iraq — Efforts to stabilize Iraq before the June 30 turnover of sovereignty suffered a blow when gunmen killed or wounded seven foreign aid workers in a 24-hour period that ended yesterday.

The victims included five American missionaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist denomination, who just had arrived in the northern city of Mosul to build a water-purification plant at a camp for 150 war-displaced Arab refugees.

Four died and one, Carrie Taylor McDonnall, of Texas, was flown in critical condition to Germany for medical treatment.

“This is personally very difficult,” said Maj. Cincy Glenister of Puyallup, Wash., who had spent several days meeting with the group after they drove into town and began looking for a house from which to operate.

“They said they understood the risks, and it was worth risking their lives to help these people. And Carrie made the best brownies I’ve ever tasted. It just shows how desperate these [killers] are.”

Two European engineers were killed in a separate ambush south of Baghdad, prompting U.S. military officials to speculate that the Iraqi resistance has shifted from targeting other Iraqis or well-protected U.S. soldiers.

Speaking at a military ceremony in Tikrit, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the attacks on humanitarian workers were an attempt to intimidate those trying to help the 36-nation U.S.-led coalition.

“Clearly, there has been a shift in the insurgency and the way the extremists are conducting operations,” the Associated Press quoted Gen. Sanchez as saying. “It is very clear they are going after these targets that might create some splits within the coalition.”

The International Mission Board (IMB), the missionary arm of the Southern Baptists, named those killed in Mosul as Larry T. Elliott and Jean Dover Elliott, who had served with the IMB in Honduras since 1978 and transferred to the Middle East in February, and Karen Denise Watson, who had been with the board since March 2003. David E. McDonnall, Mrs. McDonnall’s husband, died en route to a military-support hospital in Baghdad.

“We are grieving the loss of four colleagues and are concerned for a fifth colleague,” said Clyde Meador, the board’s executive vice president, in a statement posted on the board’s Web site (www.imb.org). “We know we are not alone in our grief.”

The five were driving in Mosul when they were attacked with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Elsewhere, guerrillas fatally shot two Western engineers and six Iraqis yesterday.

One of those killed in an ambush near Hilla, some 60 miles south of Baghdad, was from the Netherlands, the first Dutch citizen killed in Iraq since U.S.-led forces invaded last March, the Dutch government said.

A German official said the other dead engineer was a German. Two Iraqis were killed in the same ambush.

The AP quoted Col. A’ayed Omran, police chief in Mussayab, as saying the two Europeans were water engineers working on a project at Al-Razzaza, a lake near the southern city of Karbala.

He said they were carrying weapons because they had been attacked in the same area before.

Gen. Sanchez, speaking to reporters in Tikrit, meanwhile said the coalition could manage without the help of 1,300 Spanish troops, who are scheduled to depart by June 30 on the orders of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the upset winner in Sunday’s Spanish elections.

“It is something we will have to adjust to,” Gen. Sanchez said. “But it is clearly manageable. It is not a significant military problem for the coalition to be able to cover that area.”

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