35 Soliders Wounded in Mortar Attack

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Anti-American insurgents fired mortar rounds at a U.S. military camp Wednesday night, wounding 35 U.S. soldiers, the U.S. command said.

Six mortar rounds exploded about 6:45 p.m. at Logistical Base Seitz west of Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said in a statement. The camp is located in the so-called Sunni Muslim triangle that is a stronghold of resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"The wounded soldiers were given first aid and have been evacuated from the site for further medical treatment," the statement said. The Pentagon added that the soldiers were from the Army's 541st Maintenance Battalion, based in Fort Riley, Kan., and part of the 3rd Corps Support Command.

The mortars hit "a living area where they have their sleeping quarters," the spokesman said.

A Pentagon spokesman said that some of those wounded returned to duty shortly after the attack, while others were hospitalized. The spokesman, Lt. Col. James Cassella, said he did not know how many were seriously or lightly wounded.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. troops said they destroyed a home in Fallujah, the center of the anti-American insurgency west of Baghdad, where enraged neighbors said a married couple was killed and their five children were orphaned.

The neighbors insisted the couple was innocent in an attack on the troops that led them to shell the house.

"This is democracy? These corpses?" Raad Majeed asked at the hospital, gesturing at the remains of the couple, on gurneys covered with bloody sheets. "It's a crime against humanity."

The 82nd Airborne Division said its paratroopers acted after receiving "two rounds of indirect fire" around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

"Paratroopers from our Task Force engaged the point of origin with a grenade launcher and small arms, causing two personnel to flee into a nearby building, which was also engaged and destroyed," division spokeswoman Capt. Tammy Galloway said in a statement.

"The building was searched and no weapons or personnel were found. Upon questioning, civilians in the area reported two dead personnel were taken to a nearby hospital," the statement said.

Civilian deaths in the counterinsurgency campaign have enraged many Iraqis at a time when the U.S.-led coalition is trying to win popular support. On Wednesday, the coalition announced it was freeing 506 of 12,800 prisoners in a goodwill gesture also aimed at encouraging more Iraqis to come forward with intelligence against anti-American guerrillas.

Officials offered rewards for the capture or information confirming the deaths of 30 more wanted Iraqis, putting bounties of $50,000 to $200,000 on their heads. That is in addition to bounties for the 13 remaining fugitives at large from the original 55 most wanted Iraqis whose pictures appeared on a deck of cards.

There's a bounty of $10 million on the head of the most wanted man since Saddam Hussein's capture, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of the ousted dictator's chief lieutenants.

In Fallujah, neighbors said U.S. soldiers were on a routine search for suspects and arms when they were fired on. The paratroopers then fired at the house of Ahmed Hassan Faroud.

Associated Press Television News film showed a wall of the house collapsed into a rubble of concrete bricks and two walls splattered with blood that neighbors said belonged to Hassan, 37, and his wife Suham Omar, 28. They said the couple's five children were in bed in an adjoining room and survived Tuesday night's attack uninjured. Fallujah is about 30 miles west of Baghdad, the capital.

"They just brought in their tank and fired at their house from 200 meters (220 yards) away," Majeed said. "What did these people do wrong?"

Tuesday's attack came as coalition officials said they would become "increasingly aggressive with the die-hards," while simultaneously making conciliatory gestures to moderates or fence-sitters.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a British soldier died in a training accident in southern Basra, bringing the toll for British troops to 53, a British military spokesman said.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, insurgents struck an Iraqi police vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade Tuesday night. One officer was killed and two were wounded in that attack, one seriously, police said. Rebels regularly target police and other Iraqis who cooperate with the U.S.-led occupation authorities, as well as the oil installations that victims of the attack were assigned to protect.

Also in Kirkuk, a grenade hit the office of the Kurdistan Socialist Party, wounding one person and causing slight damage, police said.

Kurdish party offices in Kirkuk have come under attack several times recently as fears mount amid demands from Kurds that the oil-rich city become part of the autonomous state that they have controlled in northern Iraq under British and U.S. aerial protection since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

Syria's vice president on Wednesday accused Israel of trying to divide Iraq. Syria, Turkey and Iran all are concerned that Kurds may start demanding an independent state to include parts of their countries that hold Kurdish populations.

"The most dangerous thing that threatens Iraq is that some foreign forces, particularly Israel, are seeking to break up (Iraqi) national unity," Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam told reporters after meeting with an Iraqi tribal delegation.

The Iraqi delegation, from the large Jbour tribe, called on all international forces to work to "rid Iraq of the (U.S.-led) occupation and prevent partition, sectarianism and racism in the country."


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