BAGHDAD, Iraq - The remains of two U.S. soldiers apparently kidnapped last week were discovered yesterday north of Baghdad, ending an extensive search for the missing men.
Military officials did not provide details on how or when the vanished soldiers died. They were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Roselle, N.J., and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio.
Coalition forces involved in the search had hinted Friday that the pair might already be dead, saying would-be rescuers, acting on a tip, had arrived "too late" at a compound where the men appeared to have been held.
The U.S. Central Command said the soldiers' remains were recovered about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad and had been positively identified. The Humvee the men were driving was still missing.
Another U.S. soldier was killed and four others wounded late Friday night in a grenade attack in Baghdad.
The past week has taken the worst toll since the end of the war on coalition forces, with more than a dozen attacks, including the killings of six British troops in eastern Iraq.
Military officials, soldiers and analysts are divided over whether the assaults are being centrally coordinated, perhaps by Baath Party leaders, loyalist fedayeen, Republican Guard fighters or rebel clerics.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has insisted that the recent attacks are not evidence of a growing guerrilla war against coalition forces in Iraq.
But by suggesting that common criminals are behind the attacks, "Rumsfeld and other administration officials look increasingly like proverbial ostriches, ignoring reality while making assertions that strain credulity," said Dale Davis, a former Marine Middle East specialist at the Virginia Military Institute.
A group of 1st Armored Division soldiers, who stopped on a Baghdad street yesterday to buy air conditioning units for a military office under construction, said they have come under regular fire while traveling around Baghdad and are convinced that the attacks are being coordinated at some level.
Fuel convoys in particular are being targeted, apparently in an effort to cut off supplies, they said, and attackers appear to have tracked the movements and schedules of military vehicles, especially those along the highway from Baghdad's main airport.
"I don't know how, but they've got their stuff together," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Williams, 32, who was involved in a 35-minute gunbattle with attackers several weeks ago.
U.S. troops said they are responding to the heightened risk of ambush by increasing briefings and drills, and by trying not to let their concentration lapse while on patrol.
"You have to look mean and tough going down the road. Every soldier in the convoy knows exactly how to react to fire and ambushes," said 1st Sgt. Jeff Holsather, 36, part of a 1st Armored Division engineering unit, who was in Baghdad yesterday to buy supplies.
Watchful soldiers with rifles in hand surrounded the unit's two trucks and two Humvees, as commanders inside negotiated a deal at a shop, well aware that just two days ago an Army soldier was shot in the neck while stopped at a nearby store to buy a DVD.
They said their unit has been fired on repeatedly, on the city's highways and on side streets.
"Every time you set foot out here, your adrenaline pumps," Holsather said. Troops aren't panicked, he said, but they know that "complacency can kill."
Laurie Goering is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.