US soldiers injured after Iraqis blame army for mosque attack

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The Independent Online

At least six American soldiers were wounded yesterday in the rising tide of anti-US violence in Iraq. And US forces were blamed for a blast at a mosque in the troubled town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which killed 10 Iraqis, including the imam who was preaching when the explosion happened on Monday night.

At least six American soldiers were wounded yesterday in the rising tide of anti-US violence in Iraq. And US forces were blamed for a blast at a mosque in the troubled town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which killed 10 Iraqis, including the imam who was preaching when the explosion happened on Monday night.

In the latest attack on the occupying US soldiers, a vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a car near Baghdad university, wounding four. Two other American soldiers were seen being evacuated by helicopter from their partly burnt vehicle, which was hit when their convoy came under attack on the road from the capital to Fallujah.

In western Baghdad, American troops shot and killed two people when their car did not stop at a checkpoint, witnesses said, and later, two civilians were shot and killed at another checkpoint, one by soldiers and another by a stray bullet.

The Americans have responded to the insurgency, which has killed more than 20 US soldiers and six British military police since the war was officially declared over on 1 May, by launching an operation to hunt down the Iraqi fighters. Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, describes them as "terrorist" remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Commenting on the upsurge in attacks on US troops, President Geoge Bush said the violence was expected because Saddam loyalists will stop at nothing to regain power.

"These groups believe they have found an opportunity to harm America, to shake our resolve in the war on terror, and to cause us to leave Iraq before freedom is fully established. They are wrong and they will not succeed," he said.

The Government announced yesterday that Britain is to lead a 16,000-strong multinational division in Iraq that will concentrate on peace-keeping duties, freeing American forces to combat the growing armed resistance. About 11,000 UK troops are due to be joined by contingents from the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, New Zealand and Lithuania. Denmark has already sent soldiers to the British-controlled zone and the Czech Republic has set up a field hospital.

After the killing of six members of the Royal Military Police in Majar al-Kabir, north of Basra, the Ministry of Defence in London considered sending reinforcements to Iraq. The arrival of soldiers from other countries means this will no longer be necessary.

Plans are also being drawn up for two other divisions to supplement the British-led one. One is expected to be led by Poland. Washington wants the third to be led by India. No fewer than 70 nations have been asked by the US to contribute troops. Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Pakistan, Hungary and Ukraine are all said to be prepared to send soldiers.

Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, pledged around 4,000 troops after a visit to the US during which he secured promised loans from President George Bush.

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