THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ
Four GIs Slain; Bodies of 26 Iraqis Found
U.S. troops are killed in roadside bombings in AlAnbar province. Iraqi corpses point to sectarian violence, a Sunni group claims.
June 13, 2005
By Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD — Four U.S. soldiers were killed in two roadside bombings, the military said Sunday, as Iraqi authorities found the bodies of at least 26 Iraqis in three locations around the capital.
All the corpses bore signs of torture. Twenty of the bodies were discovered in the Nahrawan district, just southeast of Baghdad. None of the men carried identification and all wore civilian clothes, said an Interior Ministry source. They had all been shot to death.
Police also found three bodies without identification papers in a car under a bridge in Dulaee, a district in northwest Baghdad. Another three were discovered in the Baladiyat district.
Authorities have been regularly finding bodies, apparently of Shiite Muslims and Kurds targeted by Sunni Arab insurgents who accuse them of collaborating with U.S. forces and the Washington-backed transitional government.
But the Muslim Scholars Assn., a Sunni Arab group, said the victims were Sunnis killed by police officers in retaliation for a spate of killings of Shiites. "This kind of crime aims to set sectarian fires," the organization said on its website.
In other violence, mortar shells killed a child and injured five people in the Mosul area, Police Brig. Gen. Amjad Hashim Taqi said.
The four U.S. soldiers whose deaths were announced Sunday died Saturday. All were Army members assigned to work with U.S. Marines in the volatile western province of Al Anbar.
The deaths raised to at least 30 the American toll in Iraq since June 1. Nearly 1,700 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, and close to 13,000 wounded.
On Sunday, Rep. Walter B. Jones, whose district includes the Marine Corps training base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., said he would introduce legislation this week to set a firm timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Jones, a conservative Republican who supported the October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq, told ABC's "This Week" that "we've done about as much as we can do" in that country.
The Bush administration has opposed setting a timetable for withdrawal, arguing that doing so would only strengthen insurgents' hands. But Jones said that "the Iraqi people, after they're trained, should fight and defend their own country."
He blamed the failure to plan for the insurgency on "primarily the neoconservatives" in key positions, particularly in the Defense Department.
"I think that they gave bad advice," said Jones, who led the effort in early 2003 to rename French fries "freedom fries" after France refused to support the invasion.
Other Republican congressmen criticized the administration Sunday for playing down the strength of the insurgency and overstating the ability of Iraqi forces to deal with the country's problems.
"We underestimated the viability of the insurgency," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." He said the administration had "been slow to adjust when it comes to troop strength and supporting our troops."
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, appearing on CNN's "Late Edition" said: "Many of us warned this administration before we ever put a boot on the ground there that we were going to be dealing with this kind of thing. We didn't have plans for it. And we are now where we are."
Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who has just returned from a trip to Iraq, said the administration needed to tell the American public that Iraqi forces might not be prepared to take the job now being handled by U.S. troops for possibly another two years.
"We can't come back to America and have our people being convinced that the Iraqi troops are prepared to take over when they're not," Weldon said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "That's going to cause our people back home to say, 'Bring them home now.' And really, we're not prepared to bring them home right now."
Weldon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he believed it would take a minimum of eight to 10 months, and possibly as long as two years, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq — "and that's assuming everything goes well."
Jones told ABC that attending a funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq in the early days of the invasion caused him to begin questioning his support for the war. During the service, the Marine's wife read the last letter she had received from her husband, "and that has really been on my mind and my heart ever since," he said.
Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report