Two U.S., One Polish Soldier Killed in Separate Attacks in Iraq
One American soldier was killed outside Baghdad and another near the Syrian border, U.S. military officials said Thursday. Polish forces also suffered their first casualty when a major was killed in an ambush south of Baghdad.
The Polish officer was shot in the neck Thursday near Karbala as he and 15 other Polish soldiers returned from a promotion ceremony for the Iraqi civil defense corps, according to the Associated Press. He died in the hospital, Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski called for a minute of silence before a previously scheduled meeting with government officials when he heard the news.
The death marks the first for Polish forces, which took charge of a 23-nation security force in south-central Iraq. Poland has deployed 2,000 troops toward the nearly 10,000-member multinational force.
One U.S. soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment died Thursday evening, local time, when his truck hit a land mine near the Iraq-Syria border at a crossing point about 195 miles northwest of Baghdad, according to the AP.
A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others wounded Wednesday night when their patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad.
The incidents bring the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since May 1, the announced end of major combat operations, to 140.
The U.S. military held a memorial service at an airfield west of Baghdad for the 15 soldiers killed Sunday when insurgents struck their Chinook helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile.
Meanwhile, Central Command announced that two high-ranking Iraqi officers captured Wednesday are thought to have had a major role in organizing the insurgencies in the Fallujah area west of Baghdad. The military identified the two as Lt. Gen. Khamis Saleh Ibrahim Al-Halbossi and Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Adwan Al-Alwani.
Troops from the 4th Infantry Division also arrested 14 people, including a suspected member of a local terrorist cell and a weapons dealer, during more than a half-dozen raids in Baghdad, Major Jossyln Aberle, the division’s spokeswoman said.
Wednesday and Thursday’s attacks came as the Pentagon announced it would start rotating forces next year, cutting the American military presence there to about 105,000 by spring, according to Reuters. U.S. Reserve and National Guard troops and about 20,000 Marines have been put on alert. There are currently about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The Defense Department plans to use thousands of Iraqis being trained for military and police duties to guard potential targets from guerilla attacks. U.S. forces and two multinational contingents of about 20,000 troops have provided the bulk of security duties thus far.
Japan, meanwhile, has said it is sticking to its promise to send 700 peacekeepers to Iraq despite the incidents of violence. Yukio Okamoto, top diplomatic advisor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said withdrawing from Iraq would send the wrong message to “terrorists who seek to thwart international support efforts,” according to the Kyodo news agency.