Soldiers killed, mutilated in Mosul

2 U.S.

After their car is attacked, mob overwhelms troops

November 24, 2003|By Christine Spolar | Christine Spolar,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two American soldiers were shot and mutilated yesterday by assailants who attacked their vehicle in the northern city of Mosul in another day of insurgent violence against coalition forces, said U.S. military sources.

The men were traveling in a white four-wheel-drive car when a brick or stone was thrown at the vehicle, causing it to stop, military sources said. A crowd of armed assailants quickly overwhelmed the car.

Soldiers from a nearby compound tried to rescue the men, military officials said, but before they could get there, a mob killed the two soldiers, leaving their bodies in the street.

There were conflicting reports about whether the men were shot or stabbed to death. Military spokesmen in Baghdad declined to discuss the attack in detail.

The 101st Airborne Division, the soldiers' unit, released a statement last night that said that the men were shot to death and "that there was no official report of anything to do with stabbings or throat slashings."

Another military official, however, acknowledged last night that an internal report found that the soldiers were shot and slashed. The report had not determined how they died, he said, and the slashings may have happened in the mayhem after the men died.

"Their bodies were mutilated," the official said.

In addition to the Mosul attack, another American soldier was killed yesterday, and two others were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, the military said. The military also said three American civilian contractors were wounded in an explosion in the northern oil center of Kirkuk.

Also, an Iraqi police colonel from Mosul was fatally shot Saturday evening while heading to a mosque. The death of Col. Abdul-Slam Qanbar, in charge of the police force in Mosul and in protecting oil installations in the north, was described by the coalition as part of the insurgency campaign against U.S.-backed security forces.

In Washington, the Mosul attack provided political fodder for talk shows yesterday as Democratic leaders challenged the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and the escalating insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition.

The incident, reported widely on satellite news broadcasts and Western and Arab Web news sites, underscored the vulnerability of the heavily armed American troops as they operate in urban areas of Iraq.

"The slashing of throats of Americans by the enemy shows how inhuman, how brutal, how dangerous the enemy is that we're facing," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said on CNN's Late Edition.

The Connecticut Democrat and presidential candidate said the Bush administration's lack of preparation was to blame for "the chaos that's there now." Such attacks should make the administration "redouble our commitment to do whatever's necessary to defeat the enemy," he said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News Sunday that more troops are needed in Iraq to put down an escalating insurgency. "I understand it's incredibly difficult for the president to go to the American people and say we're going to put more troops in near-term," Biden said. "[But] there is not enough force or the right type of force there at this moment to quell the insurgency."

Coalition forces recently launched two high-profile operations - using AC-130 gunships, F-16 fighter jets and satellite-guided bombs - against rebel targets in and around Baghdad to stanch the flow of attacks.

Guerrillas responded this week with suicide bombings on two police stations, a missile strike on a civilian cargo plane leaving Baghdad International Airport, and attacks on the Oil Ministry and two Baghdad hotels using rocket-propelled grenades that were hidden in carts pulled by donkeys.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman, has continued to characterize such insurgent attacks, including the attack yesterday in Mosul, as militarily insignificant. Kimmitt declined to discuss specifics about the soldiers' deaths yesterday and rebuffed all questions about the circumstances.

"We're not going to be ghoulish about this," he said.

Still, witness accounts at the scene were at odds with official military reports. CNN, which broadcast video of the two dead soldiers lying in the street covered with a sheet, reported that witnesses at the scene said the men's throats had been slit.

Also yesterday, the Iraqi Governing Council named the country's ambassador to the United States. She is Rend Rahim Francke, an Iraqi native and veteran Washington lobbyist. Francke led the Iraq Foundation, a Washington-based pro-democracy group, and has spent most of her life outside of Iraq.

The appointment will establish diplomatic ties between Washington and Baghdad for the first time since they were cut in 1990 when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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