Iraq suicide attacks injure 62 U.S. troops

Governing Council fires provincial governor appointed by Bremer

December 10, 2003|By Carol J. Williams | Carol J. Williams,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq sustained hits on its military and civilian flanks yesterday when 62 Americans were injured in three attacks and the Iraqi Governing Council defiantly announced the firing of a governor chosen by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III.

Two suicide bombings targeted U.S. military facilities, the first before dawn outside a compound in Tall Afar, near the northern city of Mosul, injuring 59 soldiers.

The second occurred at a base in Husseiniya, 15 miles northeast of Baghdad, where a man blew himself up, wounding at least three soldiers.

Near Fallujah, a heavily fortified city an hour west of the capital, a rocket-propelled grenade struck one of two low-flying helicopters at 2:30 p.m., sending the OH-58D Kiowa and its two crewmen into an open field. A military spokesman described it as a "controlled landing" and said both soldiers walked away from the wreckage.

Politically more injurious to reconstruction efforts was the Governing Council's declaration that it had fired the provincial governor of Babylon, Iskandar Jawad Witwit, who had been appointed by Bremer in the summer. Two weeks ago the Governing Council ordered Witwit removed on grounds of corruption and nepotism, but Bremer overruled the move.

The council declared the army colonel dismissed yesterday on grounds that he was a member of the outlawed Baathist Party and hence disqualified from high office. Babylon and its main city, Hillah, have been relatively calm and secure, factors that probably led Bremer to stick with an official presiding over a rare region of peace amid the occupation.

Witwit's sacking follows weeks of rallies and wrangling. Witwit's brother and security adviser, Muhanad Jawad, accused Governing Council member Ahmad Barak, also from Hillah, of seeking to oust the current governor to secure the regional power base for his own brother.

Barak, in an interview, dismissed Witwit's claim as nonsensical, noting that his brother already earns three times the governor's salary as a deputy to the Governing Council. The holdover from the former regime needed to be ousted, Barak insisted, to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that the council, often criticized as a U.S. puppet, represents legitimate leadership of a sovereign nation.

"We must play this role in front of our people. We must do this for the Iraqi people, to show respect for the opinion of the Iraqi people," Barak said.

In Tall Afar, the predominantly Turkmen city of 300,000 west of Mosul that was targeted by the first suicide bombing yesterday, flying debris damaged several houses and the bomber's remains were strewn hundreds of feet across the entrance to the base used by U.S. forces.

Also yesterday, the coalition reported that three U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division died Monday when their armored vehicle crashed through an embankment north of Baghdad. Their deaths brought to 448 the number of U.S. troops reported killed since the war began March 20.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq

The latest identifications of American military personnel killed in Iraq:

Army Pfc. Jason G. Wright, 19, Luzerne, Mich.; killed by hostile fire Dec. 8 in Mosul, Iraq; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Army Pfc. Ray J. Hutchinson, 20, League City, Texas; killed Dec. 7 in Mosul, Iraq when a bomb hit his vehicle; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Associated Press

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