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Three Marines killed in roadside bomb attack

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  • Three Marines killed in roadside bomb attack

    June 29, 2004

    By Robert H. Reid
    Associated Press

    BAGHDAD, Iraq — A roadside bomb killed three Marines and wounded two others Tuesday in the first fatal attack on American forces since the transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.
    In one of his first acts since taking power, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Saddam Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi legal custody and face charges before an Iraqi court this week — but he won’t go on trial for months. The ousted former Iraqi leader will remain in a U.S.-run jail for now because his government does not have a suitable prison.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi militants shot to death a soldier they had held hostage for three months, saying the killing was punishment for U.S. policy in the Mideast nation, Al-Jazeera television said Tuesday.

    The Arab-language station reported the slain soldier was Spc. Keith M. Maupin, but the U.S. military said it could not confirm whether a man shown being shot in a murky videotape was the 20-year-old from Batavia, Ohio, who was taken hostage after an April 9 attack outside Baghdad.

    The attack on the Marines occurred at 10 a.m. in east Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement.

    Despite Monday’s formal end of the occupation, about 160,000 soldiers — mostly Americans — remain in Iraq as a multinational force to help the new Iraqi government restore order.

    Reporters on Tuesday asked Allawi whether his Cabinet had finalized plans for emergency rule as have been proposed publicly by a number of officials since the interim administration was announced June 1.

    “We will tell you about those procedures later — maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he said. “We will tell you about those procedures that were adopted by the Cabinet.”

    Allawi promised an open proceeding when Saddam faces war crimes charges, including genocide.

    “I know I speak for my fellow countrymen when I say I look forward to the day former regime leaders face justice,” he said at his first news conference since the U.S.-led coalition handed over sovereignty to his government on Monday.

    Iraqi authorities announced arrest warrants for Saddam and 11 others, including former Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Aziz.

    In a separate hostage drama, an Iraqi extremist group freed three Turkish captives on Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister said. Al-Jazeera reported the group was releasing the hostages “for the sake of their Muslim brothers.”

    “Our citizens have been released,” Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told state television. “We’ve struggled a lot for their release.”

    Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape showing the three Turkish hostages, believed to have been contractors, kneeling in front of three members of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad movement, as one of the militants read a statement.

    “For the sake of you, our brothers, and Muslims of the people of Turkey ... we will release these hostages and send them safely home,” the statement said.

    Monday’s surprise transfer of sovereignty came two days earlier in an apparent attempt to foil the timing of expected attacks by anti-American insurgents intent at undermining the transfer.

    There were no major attacks on Monday, but four U.S. soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb attack on their convoy in Tikrit, said Sharon Walker, a spokeswoman for the coalition military press center in Baghdad.

    Near midnight, four heavy explosions rang out in central Baghdad, close to the U.S.-held Green Zone — a near daily occurrence in the capital. But the military said there were no injuries in the blasts, which were caused by mortar fire.

    Early Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station in Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing one officer and one civilian, said policeman Satar al-Ghareri.

    In a separate attack, assailants opened fire Tuesday on a U.S. patrol in the Azimiya neighborhood, a Sunni Muslim stronghold of north Baghdad. There were no U.S. casualties, but one Iraqi civilian was killed, according to an Interior Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb exploded as a senior Kurdish police official was heading to work, killing one of his guards and wounding him and two others, police said.

    Maj. Ahmed al-Hamawandi, the head of police in the Kurdish district of Azadi in Kirkuk, suffered minor injuries in the attack that occurred about 8:50 a.m., said police Col. Sarhat Qader.

    Sectarian tension has been on the rise in Kirkuk, a city that sits atop vast oil reserves, and Kurdish officials and police have been the frequent target of attacks by gunmen.

    President Bush raised no objection to Allawi taking hard-line measures to deal with militants such as al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in the country.

    “He may take tough security measures to deal with Zarqawi, but he may have to,” Bush said. “Zarqawi is the guy who beheads people on TV. He’s the person that orders suiciders to kill women and children.”

    Al-Jazeera aired a video showing a blindfolded man identified as Maupin sitting on the ground. Al-Jazeera said that in the next scene, gunmen shoot the man in the back of the head, in front of a hole dug in the ground. The station did not broadcast the killing.

    Maj. Willie Harris, spokesman for the Army’s 88th Regional Readiness Command, said the man in the footage could not be clearly identified but that the videotape is being analyzed by the Department of Defense.

    “There is no confirmation at this time, that the tape contains footage of Matt Maupin or any other Army soldier,” he said.

    Al-Jazeera said a statement was issued with the video in the name of a group calling itself “The Sharp Sword against the Enemies of God and His Prophet.”

    In the statement, the militants said they killed the soldier because the United States did not change its policies in Iraq and to avenge “martyrs” in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

    Maupin was among nine Americans, seven of them contractors, who disappeared after an ambush on a convoy west of Baghdad on April 9.

    The bodies of four civilian employees of Kellogg Brown & Root — a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton — were later found in a shallow grave near the site of the attack. The body of Sgt. Elmer Krause, of Greensboro, N.C., was later found.

    One civilian driver, Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss., was kidnapped but escaped from his captors nearly a month later. The others are missing.

    In a separate hostage-taking, the father of a U.S. Marine who was reported kidnapped by militants on Monday issued a plea for his release. The captors of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun have threatened to behead him.

    Hassoun, an American Marine of Lebanese descent, was shown blindfolded, with a sword brandished over his head in a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera on Sunday. The militants threatened to behead him unless all Iraqis “in occupation jails” are freed. They did not set a timeframe.

    “I appeal to the kidnappers and to their conscience and faith to release my son,” his father, Ali Hassoun, said in an interview with The Associated Press at his house in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

    “He is not a fighter. I hope that they will respond favorably to my appeal. May God reward them,” he said.
    Semper Fidelis

    George T. Curtis