One U.S. soldier killed, five wounded in attack in central Iraq

Thursday, June 5th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

A U.S. soldier was killed and five were wounded when an assailant fired at least one rocket-propelled grenade at them in the restive Iraqi town of Falluja on Thursday (June 5).

The U.S. military has deployed more than 3,000 troops to Falluja, bringing the total number of U.S. troops in and around the restive town to an estimated 6,000.

Residents said the soldiers were in front of the police station when they were hit. The explosion made a hole in the outside wall, and pieces of wreckage and intravenous drip bags were on the ground. Blood stains were also visible on the wall and ground.

The wounded soldiers, from the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, were driven to a military medical facility nearby.

U.S forces started reinforcing their presence around Falluja - a former stronghold of Saddam Hussein's regime - on Wednesday (June 4).

U.S. commanders said the troops were deployed to quell increasing guerrilla-style attacks which have targeted US forces in the predominantly Sunni Muslim area.

Falluja, 70 km (45 miles) west of Baghdad, is a cauldron of hostility to U.S. forces. Last April 15 townspeople were killed by U.S. forces in two separate incidents following the fall of Saddam's regime.

Troops, boosted by more armoured cars, were out in force in the streets. Soldiers searched houses as residents were told to stay inside. The army plans to deploy more tanks in the city.

U.S. army specialist Terry Martin said conditions in Falluja were difficult.

"You don't have the military support here like you do in Baghdad. Everywhere you go in Baghdad there is an Abraham sitting on the corner, or a Bradley. Here you don't have that - I mean they have free range to do what they want. Plus we are working in open areas, we are not in the concealed area of the city."

U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Otis Smith said troops would be deployed in the streets.

"Well, it would be more of present patrols on foot and with smaller vehicles - not necessarily a lot of tanks or Bradleys, there will be some of those vehicles in a static position doing security."

Last week, two U.S. soldiers were killed and nine wounded when gunmen attacked an American army unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms in the city.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General David McKiernan, said on Wednesday that attacks on U.S. troops in the area were the work of remnants of Saddam's government, toppled by U.S. and British forces eight weeks ago.

Residents of Falluja disagreed, saying the United States did not understand the nature of Falluja, or Iraq.

"What the Americans do is provoke us daily. They are preventing Iraqi people to go directly to their homes -they have to make a detour of two kilometres," said Falah.

In a separate incident, the U.S. military said two American soldiers were also wounded in Baghdad when two attackers fired on them as they were guarding a bank. No details were available.

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