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American Forces Press Service

Soldier Killed, Two Others Wounded in Baghdad Attack

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2004 -- Terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may be responsible for the latest death of a U.S. soldier, Coalition Provisional Authority officials said at a Baghdad news conference today.

Military spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said one soldier was killed and two others were wounded May 6 by a suicide car bomber at a military checkpoint in Baghdad.

A group claiming responsibility for the bombing through the Iraqi press has been linked to Zarqawi, according to Kimmitt, who added that he was "not surprised" at the connection.

"The tactics, the techniques, the signatures that we saw at the site," he said, "were characteristic of the terrorist groups: a symbolic attack on a coalition checkpoint, attempting to achieve spectacular results through the killing of a number of civilians, and a suicide car-bomber used in the process. So we were not surprised when we saw Zarqawi's name mentioned as the group taking responsibility for that."

Kimmitt said the attack also killed seven Iraqis and wounded at least 23 others, some of whom were Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and police personnel.

Despite the deaths, Kimmitt said the coalition will "continue to work with the Iraqi police, continue to field equipment, continue to train, continue to work side by side with them to ensure we can maintain public security inside of Baghdad, inside the entire country."

Meanwhile, Kimmitt said, the coalition continues operations to stabilize Iraq's economy and repair infrastructure and to transfer the country to Iraqi sovereignty.

In the northern zone of operations, Kimmitt said, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 76 patrols and detained 77 anti-coalition suspects. In the north-central zone, 308 patrols led to the capture of 10 anti-coalition suspects.

The Kirkut minister of agriculture, Hayad Majeed, was assassinated in a drive- by shooting. Kimmitt said the Majeed's wife was wounded in the attack and was taken to Kirkut General Hospital.

A mortar attack near the Baghdad Hotel caused no significant damage, the general said.

In Fallujah, once the site of a terse standoff between Marines and militants holed up there, the security situation has remained quiet for the sixth straight day. Kimmitt said there have been no violations of the cease-fire reported.

He said efforts to reposition Marine forces there continue in an effort to transition security responsibilities. Marines have moved to the northern part of the city, he added, where they cordon off and man joint traffic-control points.

The numbers of Iraqi forces in the city continue to rise, Kimmitt said. Kimmitt said some 1,750 soldiers from the 1st Fallujah Brigade reported for duty. The new soldiers will join 11,000 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers and 750 Iraqi police now patrolling parts of the city.

Kimmitt said that in Karbala, the military continues to run patrols and have met some resistance by anti-Iraqi forces. He said U.S. forces were fired upon with rocket-propelled grenades, but no coalition soldiers were injured. Five enemy personnel were killed, and about seven others were wounded, he said.

"There are about 19 other wounded that we picked up in some of the local hospitals that we suspect of being involved in those engagements," he added.

Kimmitt said in Najaf, 13 mortar rounds landed near the governor's building, which recently returned to coalition control, in two separate attacks.

He said at midday, coalition patrols were attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire during two engagements there. Coalition forces returned fire, killing 12 members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.

CPA senior spokesman Dan Senor said the coalition is interested in reaching a peaceful solution in Najaf and to avoid violence with Sadr. However, he added, any peaceful resolution must involve two conditions: Sadr must face Iraqi justice for the crimes of which he is accused, and the militant cleric must disband his illegal militia.

"Under our policy, under Iraqi law, no independent militias can operate outside the central government," Senor said, "and so his militia must be shut down immediately, and he must remove himself and his forces from government buildings, and he must return government assets."

Senor also confirmed that a Defense Department civilian contractor, Aban Elias, is being held hostage by insurgents. He said Elias is from the Denver area. Senor said the coalition is seeking Elias's safe release and putting all the "necessary resources" behind the pursuit. "This is a serious priority," he said.

"We will not negotiate with hostage takers. We will not negotiate with terrorists. That's a non-starter," Senor continued. "But we believe we can seek the safe release of hostages by putting the necessary resources behind that effort, and that's what we're doing."

On the issue of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, Senor said coalition administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III was made aware of the charges relating to the humiliation in January, "which is right when it was made public."

Senor said a press statement was issued in January, and that Bremer on "multiple occasions" in meetings with Iraqi people, including public events, "expressed his outrage about this particular issue."

Kimmitt said he is certain that the damage the allegations have caused to the relationship between Americans and Iraqi can be repaired, but that it's going to take some effort on the part of the Americans and the coalition.

"The first effort is that we will have to demonstrate that justice will be served," he said. "That will have to not only be done, but it will also have to be apparent; it will have to be visible," he explained.

He said the coalition is committed to ensuring that those proceedings, when they move to a court-martial, will be public and will be publicized. He said there will be access to the media so "that the media can show the people of Iraq exactly the type of justice system that America demonstrates for these types of activities."

He added that U.S. service members have a responsibility and duty to demonstrate to the people of Iraq "why they're here, what they're here for."

He said the pictures are not representative of the thousands of American soldiers in uniform, and that abuse was the "act of a few."

"They were wrong," he said. "They will be brought to justice."


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