March 29 —
A suicide bomber driving a taxi killed four American soldiers
Saturday at a checkpoint in south-central Iraq, U.S. officers said.
The attack came as coalition forces battled to quell paramilitary
harassment in order to prepare for an all-out push toward
It was the first suicide bombing against U.S. or British forces
since they invaded Iraq. Iraqi dissidents have claimed that Saddam
Hussein opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry
out suicide attacks against coalition troops.
Capt. Andrew Wallace said the slain Army soldiers were part of
the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, manning a checkpoint on a
highway north of Najaf. A taxi stopped near the checkpoint, the
driver waved for help, and the car exploded as the soldiers
approached, Wallace told Associated Press Television News.
U.S. commanders said the attack would not force the coalition to
make operational changes.
"We continue to place force protection as our highest priority,
but that doesn't mean we're going to back into little holes and
hide," said Col. Will Grimsley, commander of the 1st Brigade.
Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, Jr, the U.S. Central Command's director
of operations, said the attack was "a symbol of an organization
that's starting to get a little bit desperate."
Renuart also said the United States has restricted the launch of
Tomahawk cruise missiles over Saudi Arabia after complaints about
errant strikes. He said some of the missiles had fallen onto Saudi
territory, and U.S. experts would conduct a technical review before
conferring with Saudi officials on whether the launches would
In Baghdad, U.S. cruise missiles struck the Iraqi Information
Ministry on Saturday, while mourners gathered at a marketplace where
Iraqi officials said 58 civilians were killed by a coalition bomb.
Kuwaiti authorities said Iraq fired a missile of its own that
damaged a popular shopping mall in Kuwait City.
Ground combat continued in southern and central Iraq, while U.S.
forces pressed ahead with air and missile strikes aimed at weakening
Republican Guard positions defending Baghdad. The latest strikes
included attacks by Apache helicopter gunships of the 101st Airborne
Some U.S. combat units were slowing their advance while supply
and communications support is beefed up, but coalition officials
said there was no broad order for a pause in the push toward
""It is purely a case of shaping the battlefield, getting our
troops equipped and in the right place for the next part of the
campaign," said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a spokesman for coalition
Thus far, according to coalition officials, the frequent attacks
on supply lines by Iraqi paramilitary fighters have not derailed
preparations for the expected all-out assault on Republican Guard
divisions near Baghdad. But Lockwood acknowledged that the
aggressive paramilitary activity had not been anticipated by U.S.
and British war planners.
"What we've encountered is yes, something slightly different:
paramilitary forces that weren't in the war-game profile," Lockwood
In Kuwait City, officials said an Iraqi missile exploded early
Saturday on a pier near a multilevel seafront shopping center,
blasting out windows and causing two minor injuries. It was first
missile to hit Kuwait City since U.S. troops based there invaded
neighboring Iraq on March 20.
Iraqi authorities had no immediate comment on the Kuwaiti
allegation, but said the explosion Friday evening at the Al-Nasr
market in Baghdad was evidence that U.S. and British forces were
targeting civilian areas.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said
President Bush should be charged with war crimes in connection with
the civilian deaths.
The U.S. Central Command said it was trying to determine what
caused the market explosion, but repeated its denials that Iraqi
civilian neighborhoods are targeted.
Overall, Iraq claims more than 4,000 civilians have been killed
or wounded since the war began. In Baghdad alone, 68 people were
killed and 107 injured late Friday and early Saturday in the market
explosion and other blasts, al-Sahhaf said.
U.S. officials said the Information Ministry was targeted before
dawn by Tomahawk cruise missiles. The building remained intact, but
Information Ministry officials said the 10th floor which housed an
Internet server was gutted.
South of Baghdad, Marines battled Iraqi fighters in and around
the Euphrates River city of Nasiriyah, at a junction of highways
leading to Baghdad.
Renuart confirmed reports that U.S. forces had found the bodies
of some troops in shallow graves near Nasiriyah and said forensic
investigators were going to the grave sites.
The Army's 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed by Iraqi
soldiers in the area last Sunday. At least two 507th soldiers were
killed; the Defense Department said eight more were missing and five
were taken prisoners.
"We will also approach it from an aspect to ensure there were no
war crimes committed in their deaths," Renuart said.
The Central Command also said American warplanes firing
laser-guided missiles destroyed a building where some 200 members of
the ruling Baath party were believed to be meeting Friday in the
besieged southern city of Basra.
Renuart said coalition forces have now secured an oil refinery
near Basra, one of three in Iraq. It is considered a crucial
component in plans to keep Iraq's oil industry functioning.
British forces surround Basra Iraq's second-largest, with a
population of 1.3 million and want to open the way for badly needed
humanitarian aid. They have yet to launch a full-scale assault, but
darted in with tanks Saturday to destroy two statues of Saddam.
|Soldiers of Britain's 1st
Battalion of the Parachute Regiment secure their camouflage
netting during a sandstorm at their camp in southern Iraq
Saturday, March 29, 2003. (AP Photo/PA Pool, Chris
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