BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades killed three American soldiers Thursday from the 101st Airborne -- the division that carried out the deadly assault on Saddam Hussein's sons -- another sign insurgents are intent on driving U.S. troops from Iraq.
A new tape, meanwhile, showed Saddam's Fedayeen militiamen vowing to avenge the killings of Odai and Qusai Hussein.
Despite the new attacks, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, told a Pentagon news conference the deaths of Saddam's sons "will, in fact, in time help reduce the security threat to our forces."
"In the initial period I would not be surprised to see an uptick in violence against our forces," he said, emphasizing that in the long run the sons' deaths would likely encourage Iraqis to give authorities tips about other members of the Baath Party.
The soldiers killed Thursday were traveling in a convoy toward Qayyarah, 185 miles north of the capital, Baghdad, when they were attacked at about 2:30 a.m. No soldiers were reported wounded.
Death toll rises
It was the second attack in two days that killed members of the division that led the fiery assault in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that killed Odai and Qusai Hussein. The U.S. military released photos that appeared to show the battered, bloody faces of the deposed dictator's dead sons.
On Wednesday, two American soldiers were killed in separate attacks on their convoys, including one near Mosul.
The latest deaths brought to 158 the number of U.S. servicemen killed in action since the war began March 20, surpassing by 11 the death toll in the 1991 Gulf War.
Two Iraqis were also killed Thursday when their car approached a U.S. military checkpoint near the al-Geilani mosque in downtown Baghdad and American troops opened fire. Witnesses said the two men were killed after the car caught fire.
Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Arabiya aired a tape of what it said was a group of Saddam's Fedayeen militiamen vowing revenge for the deaths of Odai and Qusai Hussein.
"We want to say to the occupation forces: they said last night that killing Odai and Qusai will diminish (resistance) attacks, but we want to say to them that their death will increase attacks against them," said one of three masked men, reading from a statement.
The Fedayeen was founded by Odai. Coalition officials have repeatedly blamed former militia members for attacks on U.S. soldiers.
Also Thursday, a leading member of Iraq's interim Governing Council said Iraq should adopt a constitution and hold free elections within 18 months.
France's foreign minister said Thursday sending French troops to join U.S.-led forces in Iraq would run the risk of prolonging a tense situation in the country.
Dominique de Villepin, in a radio interview, also reiterated French insistence that the United Nations must take a larger role in rebuilding and stabilizing postwar Iraq before France takes part.
The comments appeared to be a fresh rejection of any French military role in Iraq. President Bush appealed on Wednesday for more international military and financial support for Iraq.