Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Two US soldiers die in spate of Iraqi rebel attacks

AP , BAGHDAD, IRAQ

Two US soldiers died in a mortar attack north of Baghdad, the only fatalities reported from a day in which rebels unleashed a string of grenade, rocket and mortar attacks on the capital, hitting a hotel housing foreigners and targeting two banks, several embassies and a US Army base.

The soldiers died when mortars hit a military base in Baqouba, 50km northeast of Baghdad, Major Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division said yesterday. She said four other soldiers were wounded, but did not suffer life-threatening injuries, in the attack that occurred at about 6:15pm on Thursday.

Overnight, residents of west Baghdad reported firefights that started around 10pm and lasted through 2am.

Two civilians -- a woman and her daughter sleeping in an apartment -- were injured, and damage was limited.

Late Thursday, several more explosions were heard in central Baghdad, and sirens sounded in the Green Zone, a barricaded area that houses the headquarters of the US-led coalition governing Iraq. A US military spokesman said two rockets hit a car park near the headquarters, but there were no casualties.

Troops in an aircraft located the launch point and soldiers on the ground captured five men suspected of firing those rockets, Captain Jason Beck said yesterday.

Also Thursday, distant explosions were heard before dawn and after dusk in Baghdad as the US military bombarded suspected rebel positions.

The 19-story Ishtar Sheraton Hotel was hit on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, the first time by a mortar shell that exploded harmlessly against a wall on an upper floor, and then by a rocket-propelled grenade that crashed through the atrium. There were no injuries.

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