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Roadside Bombs Kill Two U.S. Soldiers in Iraq; Governing Council Meets

BY Admin  February 16, 2004 at 3:10 PM EST

Monday’s attacks followed a Saturday raid in Fallujah, in which 25 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on the police station and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps compound.

A senior U.S. officer said Monday it appeared all the attackers wounded or killed in the Fallujah raid were Iraqis, following initial reports that foreigners were involved in the attack.

“The reports that we’ve gotten from the 82nd (Airborne Division) indicate that they were all Iraqi citizens,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said of the killed and captured attackers.

He said the final report on the raid could have different results “but right now the sensing of the commander on the ground was these were all Iraqi citizens.”

One of Monday’s roadside bombs exploded in the center of Baqouba, some 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing an American soldier from Task Force Iron Horse, the 4th Infantry Division said.

Two Iraqis were arrested in the wake of that bombing, including one who had a cell phone that might have been used to detonate the bomb, according to Master Sgt. Robert Cargie, a division spokesman in Tikrit.

The other deadly bombing occurred Monday morning in Baghdad, killing one soldier from the 1st Armored Division and wounding another, the military said.

Also Monday, U.S. military command said gunmen in a white sedan ambushed a taxi Saturday that was carrying American civilians from a religious group traveling in Iraq, killing one person and wounding three others.

U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division learned of the attack while patrolling in Mahmudiyah, a city some 15 miles from Baghdad, and the location of the hospital where the injured Americans were being treated.

The statement did not identify the religious group with which the Americans were affiliated.

Additionally Monday, a grenade exploded near an elementary school in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad, killing at least one child and wounding four others. The children apparently triggered the grenade while playing where it was hidden, Iraqi police said.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council met Monday to discuss the June 30 target President Bush has laid out for handing power back to the Iraqis.

The council discussed how the handover would occur now that the possibility of holding elections before June had been all but ruled out.

The United Nations, which sent a team to Iraq last week to advise on the handover, is trying to address the concerns of Iraq’s majority Shiites, who have been demanding direct legislative elections before the power transfer.

The U.S. administration in Iraq says there is no time to organize elections due in large part to the country’s tenuous security and the lack of voter rolls.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to announce his position on the situation later this week.

President Bush’s top administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said Sunday that Washington was awaiting the conclusions of the U.N. team, but maintained that the transfer would go ahead as scheduled.

“What the Governing Council and the coalition have said is we will welcome the U.N.’s advice and after we get that advice, we will certainly be in conversations to try to find a way that gives us a legitimate government on June 30th and that will be a complicated process,” Bremer said on ABC’s This Week.

“We want to stick with the date (June 30),” Bremer told the program. “We have three elections scheduled for Iraq next year. The problem we have is we can’t do elections in the very short time between now and June.”

Bremer also indicated that the administration is open to compromise and that the U.S. commitment in Iraq will not end with the transfer of sovereignty.

“The handover of sovereignty does not mean the coalition forces go away,” Bremer said. “On the contrary. I think we recognize, and the Iraqis recognize that coalition forces will be needed here for some time, until the Iraqi security forces themselves are capable.”