More foreign civilians killed in Iraq

Insurgents now targeting relief workers and Iraqis viewed as collaborators

March 17, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two European engineers were shot to death in a drive-by attack yesterday, the latest killings in a rash of ambushes against foreign civilians in Iraq.

Military officials said the two hydraulic engineering specialists, one from Germany, the other from the Netherlands, were driving on a remote stretch of highway in southern Iraq when their vehicle was blasted by gunfire from a passing car. Two Iraqis with the engineers also were killed.

The shooting came less than 24 hours after four U.S. missionaries were shot in their car under similar circumstances in northern Iraq.

No suspects have been identified in either attack. Last week, occupation authorities arrested four Iraqi policemen in the deaths of two U.S. civilians working for the U.S. government. They were also shot in a roadside ambush.

The targeted killings have heightened the fears of foreign workers already on edge.

"I've been here long enough to know when there's a lull in violence and when there's a peak, and right now we're in a peak," said Bill L. Evans, a telecommunications specialist from New Hampshire who has been working in Iraq since October. "When I'm driving around, my weapon sits on my lap now, not in my holster."

For months, U.S. military commanders have warned that the enemy is changing its tactics. Insurgents have moved away from ramming cars into blast walls and taking on heavily armed convoys. Civilians, both foreign and Iraqi, have become the targets of choice.

The bloodiest attacks occurred this month when more than 140 Shiite worshipers were killed in Baghdad and Karbala during religious festivals by suicide bombs, mortar fire and grenades.

Speaking at a military ceremony yesterday, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the highest-ranking commander in Iraq, said: "Clearly, there has been a shift in the insurgency and the way the extremists are conducting operations. It is very clear they are going after these targets that might create some splits within the coalition."

Attacks on Iraqis seen as collaborators are also increasing. Military officials said yesterday that a translator working for the occupation authorities was killed and two of her family members injured in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, a volatile city in northern Iraq.

Last week, two washer women working at a military base in southern Iraq were killed. Shortly before that, two sisters who served as translators for U.S. forces in Baghdad were shot, one fatally.

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