Rebels injure 35 US soldiers in attack

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The Independent US

At least 35 American soldiers were injured yesterday when insurgents fired a series of mortars into a United States military base west of Baghdad, the Pentagon said.

The attack took place at a camp known as Logistical Base Seitz at 6.45pm local time and involved soldiers from the 541st Maintenance Battalion of the 3rd Corps Support Command, according to a statement. There were no further details available about the incident.

"The wounded soldiers were given first aid and have been evacuated from the site for further medical treatment," said the statement.

The attack came as the US administration in Iraq said it would release more than 500 prisoners held in detention camps. The US said the release was an act of good will though human rights activists and others said there was no evidence to link the men to any offences.

One military official described the typical prisoner awaiting release as a person swept up in a raid that also captured "more dangerous persons" and perhaps weapons.

The release of such prisoners has been a top demand for Iraq's community leaders. A statement issued by US administrator, Paul Bremer, described the prisoners' release as a "pardon", claiming he wanted to send a message to Iraqis that the "reconciliation process is beginning".

Meanwhile, images purporting to be of Saddam's capture appeared on an American civilian website yesterday. The Pentagon has not yet authenticated them.

It also emerged that the UK Government has paid £8,125 compensation to Iraqi families since 1 May last year. The MoD confirmed it had made payouts to families of three Iraqis who died in incidents involving British soldiers, including one whose relatives say he was tortured to death in custody.

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