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U.S. soldier among 20 dead in attacks on police, military

Associated Press
Published February 19, 2006

BAGHDAD - Car bombs and gunmen killed more than 20 people, including an American soldier, Saturday as the government said insurgency-related violence cost the country's vital oil industry about $6.25-billion in damage and lost revenue last year.

British and Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, confirmed that two foreigners who disappeared two days ago in the southeastern city of Basra were Macedonians kidnapped on their way from the airport to the city center. Most of the attacks Saturday were directed against the U.S. military and Iraqi police, with civilians caught up in the violence.

The American soldier died when a roadside bomb exploded near the Shaab soccer stadium in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement. It was the first death of an American soldier since Tuesday.

Also Saturday, a government official released figures showing the devastating effects of the insurgency on the country's oil industry, the foundation of Iraq's economy. The industry suffered $6.25-billion in losses in 2005 due to infrastructure sabotage and lost export revenues, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.

Jihad told Dow Jones Newswires that Iraqi oil installations were hit by 186 attacks last year in which insurgents killed 47 oil engineers, technicians and workers, as well as about 100 police officers protecting pipelines and other oil-related facilities.

British and Iraqi officials said two Macedonians of Albanian ethnicity were seized two days ago along with a Macedonian woman, who was released. The three work for Ecolog, a German-owned Macedonian company that has a cleaning contact at the Basra International Airport.

More than 250 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since 2003, including American reporter Jill Carroll, who was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad. At least four other foreigners were seized last month - including two Germans abducted in Beiji and two Kenyan engineers who disappeared after an ambush in Baghdad.

On Saturday, the U.S. military announced the release of about 430 male Iraqi detainees over the past few days. Carroll's kidnappers have demanded the release of all women detainees. The U.S. military has said the periodic releases are not related to the kidnappers' demands.

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:36:26]

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