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2 U.S. soldiers die on day of attacks

By Wire services
Published December 27, 2003

BAGHDAD - Two American soldiers were killed in bomb blasts Friday, bringing the U.S. death toll in Iraq this week to 10 - violence serving as a reminder that insurgents remain defiant despite the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Rebel gunmen also assassinated a Sunni Muslim tribal leader who backed the coalition near a mosque in the northern town of Mosul. Anti-U.S. guerrillas have targeted Iraqi police and other officials who cooperate with the U.S.-led occupation authorities.

One U.S. soldier died Friday as he tried to defuse a homemade bomb in Baqouba, 30 miles north of Baghdad in an area serving as a power base for Hussein loyalists. Such explosives are a favored weapon of rebels, who leave them on roadsides and detonate them as military convoys pass.

The guerrillas used that tactic Friday near Balad, north of Baghdad, setting off a bomb that killed a soldier, a U.S. military spokeswoman said.

The U.S. military had earlier reported that a third soldier had been killed, but military officials later said they had confused the incidents in Baqouba and Balad.

Also Friday, three soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division were wounded in an ambush in Mosul when their convoy came under small arms fire, Maj. Trey Cate said.

The soldiers were searching the city's streets for bombs, Cate said. The soldiers returned fire but did not catch their attackers, Cate said. Witnesses said a taxi driver was killed in the firefight. Cate could not confirm that death.

In violence Thursday, two American troops died as Iraqi insurgents shelled a U.S. base near Baqouba and four were wounded, Maj. Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division said Friday.

And two Polish soldiers were wounded Thursday when assailants hit their convoy with a remote-controlled mine, Col. Zdzislaw Gnatowski told the Polish news agency PAP.

In Baghdad, a car exploded on the road to the airport, killing its two occupants in what was probably a premature explosion in a suicide bombing attempt, U.S. soldiers at the scene said.

In the Mosul assassination, gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed Sheik Talal al-Khalidi and his 23-year-old son, Saad Talal, said another son, Khalid, who witnessed the attack. A brother of the sheik was injured and the assailants fled.

Meanwhile, Japan sent a small advance team Friday to prepare for the deployment of about 1,000 noncombat personnel including more than 500 ground troops in that country's first operation in a conflict zone since World War II. And defense officials in Ukraine said that country's contingent of 1,650 troops in Iraq will be increased by about 150 aviators and six helicopters in early February.

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