Ambushes kill three US soldiers as non-Iraqi deaths top 1,000

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The Independent Online

Two roadside bombs in northern Iraq killed three American soldiers and an Iraqi civilian yesterday. The death toll among foreign nationals in Iraq has now passed the 1,000 mark.

Two roadside bombs in northern Iraq killed three American soldiers and an Iraqi civilian yesterday. The death toll among foreign nationals in Iraq has now passed the 1,000 mark.

Two soldiers died and another three were injured in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. Earlier, a soldier on patrol and an Iraqi following a US convoy were killed in Beiji, 90 miles south of Mosul. A second soldier was wounded in the blast, which was followed by a gunfight in which the driver of an attacking vehicle was killed.

A military spokesman said that four US Marines killed in western Iraq on Saturday had not died in combat, as originally reported, but in a vehicle accident.

The latest fatalities have brought the death toll among US forces to 889, of which 665 have been killed in combat and 224 in non-hostile circumstances. This takes the total number of non-Iraqi deaths since the start of the war to 1,009.

Meanwhile, the government of the Philippines again refused demands by an insurgent group to withdraw its personnel from Iraq a month earlier than planned. The group that made the demand, which has identified itself as part of the Islamic Army of Iraq, is holding a citizen of the Philippines hostage. It pledged earlier to execute the man, Angelo de la Cruz, if Manila did not agree to order the withdrawal by Saturday evening. However, the group then extended the deadline by 24 hours. Manila has 50 personnel on humanitarian duties in Iraq who are due to come out of the country at the end of next month.

Bulgaria said that it had received information that two of its citizens, both lorry drivers, who are also believed to have been taken hostage, are still alive, even though a deadline for their execution by their captives has already passed.

The four US Marines killed on Saturday were in al-Anbar province in western Iraq. At first, Pentagon sources said the men, members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, had been killed by hostile forces while conducting "security and stability operations" in the region. However, it has become clear that they died in a road accident.

A group linked with the Jordan-based terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility yesterday for an attack on a US military headquarters in Samarra last Thursday that killed five US soldiers and one Iraqi National Guardsman.

The insurgency inside Iraq was cited by Iraqi officials as the main reason for the cancellation of a planned first visit by the interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, to Europe this week.

In the northern Baghdad suburb of Baqubah about 150 demonstrators took to the streets demanding the return to power of Saddam Hussein.

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