Six U.S. Soldiers, Two CNN Staffers Killed in Iraq

Three U.S. soldiers were killed Tuesday night in a roadside bombing south of Baghdad, hours after another bomb explosion killed at least three American soldiers and one Iraqi civilian in a town west of Baghdad, U.S. military officials said. Additionally, two CNN staffers were killed in a drive-by shooting on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

The latest roadside bombing occurred about 30 miles south of Baghdad, an apparent ambush on a U.S. military convoy, according to early reports. In addition to the three deaths, three other American soldiers were injured, the U.S. military said.

Earlier in the day, a separate bomb explosion in a town west of Baghdad killed at least three Americans and injured one soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division, according to the Defense Department. One Iraqi civilian was also killed and several were injured in the blast, U.S. Central Command stated in a press release.

The roadside attack occurred in the town of Khaldiyah, located some 50 miles west of Baghdad and near Fallujah. Both towns are within the so-called Sunni Triangle, where many guerrilla attacks against coalition forces have taken place.

The U.S. Central Command has not officially released details about the incident, though an unnamed military spokesman said the first roadside bomb exploded next to a passing U.S. military convoy followed by a second blast when reinforcements arrived.

“One of our units was ambushed near Fallujah … involving two coalition vehicles,” a military spokesman told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Local witnesses supported the reports of twin roadside bombings. The first one struck a Humvee in a convoy as it passed by and, as reinforcements arrived, the second bomb went off, blasting another military vehicle, witnesses said.

Nameer Mohammed, who said he was standing about 500 yards away when the attack occurred, told the AP he saw a U.S. military vehicle on fire after the first blast. As more American forces came to the scene, another bomb went off, setting fire to a second vehicle, he said.

Hospital staff who treated the injured said that two Iraqis died — one from the explosion and the second from the gunshots fired afterward. A nurse at the local hospital said the second victim, Hadi Abd Shehab, the director of agriculture of Khaldiyah, died of a gunshot wound to the stomach. Witnesses said Shehab was shot while standing in his office close the blast scene, and died on the way to the hospital. It is unclear who shot him.

The Department of Defense, in a press statement, said that the quick-reaction force “encountered small-arms fire” when it arrived at the scene for assistance. The Pentagon has not released further information about the reported fighting after the blast.

Tuesday’s fatalities bring the number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action since the beginning of the Iraq war to at least 520.

In a separate incident Tuesday, two CNN staffers — a driver and a translator-producer — were shot and killed by unidentified assailants outside Baghdad, network officials said.

CNN reported that the pair was returning from an assignment in southern Iraq in a two-car convoy that came under attack in the outskirts of the capital. The network identified the two employees as translator-producer Dureid Issa Mohammed and driver Yasser Khateeb. Khateeb and Mohammed both joined CNN a year ago.

A CNN cameraman, Scott McWhinnie, travelling in the second car was grazed in the head by a bullet, the network said. Correspondent Michael Holmes, producer Shirley Hung, a security adviser and a second driver was also in the car with McWhinnie but were not hurt.

At least 18 journalists, including the two CNN staffers, have been killed in Iraq since the war began March 20, according to the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers.

Meanwhile, during four simultaneous raids near Tikrit Tuesday, American soldiers killed three Iraqis, one of whom was targeted as a suspected member of a guerrilla group linked to the former Baathist government, a U.S. military spokesman said.

“Three armed attackers were killed when they confronted U.S. soldiers raiding four locations simultaneously in Baiji,” the main oil refinery town located north of Tikrit, the hometown of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Master Sgt. Robert Cargie said.

U.S. troops captured five people during the raids, including three targeted individuals believed to be involved in the guerrilla group, known as Muhammad’s Army. One of the Iraqis killed was targeted as a member of the guerrilla cell.

“Soldiers were attempting to capture individuals who were suspected members of Muhammad’s Army, an anti-coalition cell operating in the area,” Cargie, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division which patrols the area, said.

Cargie noted that Muhammad’s Army had claimed responsibility for at least two attacks on U.S. helicopters.

Also Tuesday, an unexploded car bomb was discovered close to the coalition headquarters in Baghdad, and was disposed of by U.S. soldiers, the U.S. Army said.

Reporters on the scene said the bomb was believed to be hidden in a vehicle in a parking lot used by the press and visitors to the coalition compound in the “Green Zone,” one of Saddam Hussein’s former palace complexes taken over by the U.S.-led military and civilian administration in Baghdad.

On Jan. 18, a suicide car bomb blast at another entrance to the Green Zone killed at least 25 people and wounded scores of others.