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One U.S. soldier wounded in Iraq

Friday, September 12, 2003

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad Thursday, touching off an intense firefight that left at least one American soldier wounded, the military said.

Tanks and other vehicles from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment came under attack in Fallujah, part of the dangerous "Sunni Triangle" region about 60 miles west of the capital, U.S. Army Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, coalition spokesman in Baghdad, told AP Radio.

Other "U.S. forces responding to the scene came under fire and returned fire at houses nearby," Fitzgibbons said.

One U.S. soldier was wounded, said Fitzgibbons and a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity. There was no information regarding casualties among attackers.

Two U.S. military trucks were also destroyed during the fighting along Highway 10, the officials said.

The Fallujah region has been one of the most dangerous for U.S. soldiers. Support for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein runs strongest in the region.

Associated Press Television News pictures from Khaldia, 20 miles west of Fallujah, showed a burning tank transport truck, a burning 5-ton truck and at least one burning Humvee.

Kanaan Ali Ibrahim, a witness, said the convoy was moving from Habaniya to Ramadi when Iraqi "mujahedeen" ambushed it with rocket-propelled grenades.

A small crowd gathered at the scene of the attack and began shouting jubilantly "Allahu Akbar," or God is great, and "Oh, Iraq, we sacrifice our lives and blood for you."

An Abrams tank could be seen on the APTN video and there was the sound of a prolonged gunbattle, with the shooting appearing to be coming mainly from the tank and other heavy guns. The Iraqi guerrillas that carry out such ambushes normally carry only Kalashnikov automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Earlier, an American soldier died Thursday in a highly unusual accident, the military reported. The soldier was killed and two others were slightly injured when a tire they were changing on a "heavy expanded mobility tactical truck" exploded, the U.S. Central Command said. The incident occurred near Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the top American military man in Iraq said Thursday the country was becoming the key battlefield for the U.S.-led war on terrorism -- a war he said would not end quickly.

"It's clear to me that this is the next battleground in the global war on terrorism that we have been on now for two years," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters. "It's a war that will continue for some time. But there's absolutely no question in my mind that the American people are committed to winning this war."

He said the increasing threat of terrorist attacks in Iraq was "a natural follow-up battle in that war on terrorism" that began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime and its al-Qaida allies from Afghanistan.


AP Washington newsman Matt Kelley contributed to this report


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