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Texas soldiers arrange surgery for boy in U.S.

Associated Press
Published July 16, 2005

HOUSTON - The skin of the 7-year-old Iraqi boy carried a blueish hue, and he could barely breathe. Doctors said he could die in his teenage years unless a heart defect was repaired.

This week, with the help of some Texas soldiers, Kadhem Kathem had open heart surgery in Houston and is on his way to recovery.

"Today is a very happy day," his father, Jawad Kathem, said in Arabic.

Kadhem began suffering from the congenital defect about eight months ago. His skin color changed as the abnormality obstructed blood flow to the lungs, preventing his blood from being oxygenated.

He was brought to the hospital at Tallil Air Force Base near Nasiriyah, and soldiers with the 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard learned about his case.

They arranged for military transportation out of Iraq and sought private and corporate donations to pay for Kadhem's hospital, travel and other expenses.

Kadhem and his father arrived in Houston last week, while the boy's three siblings and their mother remained in Iraq, and on Tuesday, he underwent five hours of open heart surgery at Texas Children's Hospital.

By Thursday, he was alert and eating in the intensive care unit, said his father, a 33-year-old mechanic from southern Iraq.

The father and son avoided photographers for fear photos might make them easy targets for violence when they return to Iraq in about a month.

Dr. Charles Fraser Jr. said that the surgery was designed to minimize the need for more operations and that Kadhem will still have to see a cardiologist to evaluate his progress. But he will have much more energy and could do things other children do, Fraser said.

Jawad Kathem said he plans to throw a party for his family and the soldiers when he and his son return to Iraq.

Bombs kill 30 people, including two Marines

BAGHDAD - Suicide car bombs and explosions rocked wide areas of the Iraqi capital Friday, targeting U.S. and Iraqi security forces and killing at least 30 people. Two U.S. Marines died in a blast near the Jordanian border.

At least 111 people, including seven American soldiers, were wounded in the bombings - at least seven of them suicide attacks. One of the suicide bombings occurred after sundown on a bridge over the Tigris River near the home of President Jalal Talabani.

Four security guards were killed and nine people were wounded in that attack. Talabani was at home at the time, aides said, but the target may have been a U.S. convoy.

The wave of attacks, which began at midmorning and persisted after nightfall, marked an escalation in car bombings in Baghdad after a six-week U.S.-Iraqi military offensive sharply reduced their numbers since May.

U.S. commander: Violence in his sector is unchanged

WASHINGTON - A U.S. commander said Friday that the level of violence in his sector, which includes the key cities of Tikrit, Kirkuk and Samarra, remains about where it was before the January election - a sign of the insurgency's resilience.

"The suicide bomb, of course, is the weapon of choice now," Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, told reporters at the Pentagon via an audio link from Baghdad.

He said the number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces by roadside bombs, mortars and small arms has declined substantially. But the number of suicide bomb attacks grew from a monthly average of five to eight before the January elections to 15 in May and June, Taluto said. He blamed religious extremists for the increase.

Iraqi official: Zarqawi fled from Operation Lightning

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told the U.S.-owned Al Hurra television Friday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and many of his al-Qaida in Iraq followers fled Baghdad about two weeks ago because of the success of Operation Lightning, launched May 28.

"Al-Zarqawi is in his last months," Jabr added.

[Last modified July 16, 2005, 00:25:11]

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