Roadside bombs kill six U.S. soldiers in Iraq over weekend

Monday, March 15, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Roadside bombs killed four American soldiers in Baghdad, raising to six the number of U.S. troops who have died in attacks in Iraq over the weekend, the coalition said Sunday.

Hundreds of Iraqis, meanwhile, mourned a Shiite politician's relative who died in a bomb blast in his shop Saturday.

A roadside bomb killed three soldiers from the 1st Armored Division and wounded another during a patrol Saturday night in southeastern Baghdad, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition said.

That followed a similar attack in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit that killed two American soldiers and wounded three others.

U.S. forces responded by making several arrests and dispatching troops into the streets in a show of force Saturday, the same day that the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, took control of the restive Sunni Triangle town in a troop rotation.

Soldiers who have been on the front line facing the anti-U.S. insurgency -- believed to be led by Saddam loyalists and Islamic militants -- have been carrying out joint patrols with the newcomers. Saturday was only the second day that troops from the Germany-based 18th Regiment patrolled alone.

A sixth soldier died at a combat hospital from injuries suffered in a blast in the Iraqi capital Sunday morning, the spokeswoman said.

"We were woken up this morning by the blast. We saw an American military truck on fire," resident Saad Mohsen told Associated Press Television News. A second explosion set a nearby civilian truck on fire, he said.

Intelligence not 'cooked'

In Washington on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the decision to go to war with Iraq, saying intelligence before the U.S.-led invasion was not "cooked" even though inspectors have not found banned weapons.

"We may not find the stockpiles. They may not exist any longer, but let's not suggest that we knew this," Powell said on ABC's "This Week."

"We went to the United Nations, we went to the world, with the best information we had. Nothing that was cooked," he said.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the March 20 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, Powell and other Bush administration officials appeared on Sunday talk shows to defend the war and call attention to advances in rebuilding the country.

Powell had appeared before the United Nations one month before the war, laying out evidence that Saddam's government had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and an advanced nuclear weapons program.

But no weapons stockpiles have been found; and the former chief weapons inspector, David Kay, said he doubts they existed before the war. Intelligence on the nuclear weapons program has also been discredited.

Funeral services

In Baghdad, about 1,000 mourners attended the funeral on Sunday of Haidar al-Qazwini, the brother-in-law of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

"The aim of this criminal act is to ignite sectarian strife in the country," al-Jaafari's representative, Adnan al-Asadi, said at the funeral.

U.S. and Iraqi security officials suspect militants are trying to trigger conflict between Sunnis, who dominated Saddam's government, and the resurgent Shiite majority.

Iraqi police said al-Qazwini died after an unidentified man entered a shop and left a bag containing explosives, which later detonated.

Roadside bombs have become the main threat to U.S. soldiers on patrol in the Sunni Triangle, a region north and west of Baghdad that has seen some of the fiercest guerrilla attacks.

The latest deaths brought to 564 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Of those, 385 died as a result of hostile action and 179 died of other causes.

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