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US troops reportedly mutilated in Iraq

Two killed in ambush; Baghdad names envoy

BAGHDAD -- Two American soldiers were ambushed and killed yesterday in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, then their bodies assaulted by an angry mob and their vehicle looted, according to military sources and media reports from the scene. Another US soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baqubah, a town north of Baghdad.

Several Iraqi eyewitnesses quoted by wire service reporters on the scene in Mosul said the soldiers' throats were slashed after the ambush and their pockets plundered.

As the body count continued to increase in a country that appears increasingly to be veering into chaos, US officials insisted the war is being won. "The casualties we put on the enemy far exceed the casualties he puts on us," Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad.

The enemy fighters, he said, "have not demonstrated that they are a credible military force. We have very little respect for them in a stand-up fight."

The attacks occurred as an Iraqi-American woman was named acting ambassador to the United States, formally ending 13 years of suspended diplomatic ties between the countries. Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council announced that the country's most critical diplomatic post will go to Rend Rahim Francke, a veteran human rights advocate educated in Britain, Lebanon, and France, and a US citizen since 1987.

"This is very good news; Rend Rahim was an active and strong opponent of the regime," said Dan Seno, spokesman for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

Francke is the former head of the Washington-based Iraq Foundation, a group that opposed Saddam Hussein's government and advocated for democracy in Iraq, and has served as a spokeswoman for the governing council. Born in Baghdad, she has lived outside Iraq for three decades.

"I will sincerely express the ambitions of the Iraqi people," Francke said. "The Iraqi Embassy used to be a place of fear for the Iraqi community in the United States, rather than a place to render services."

US-Iraqi relations were frozen in 1990 after Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Also yesterday, Kimmitt said that a DHL cargo plane that made a flaming emergency landing at Baghdad International Airport on Saturday was almost certainly struck by SAM-7 missiles fired by insurgents.

"There were two SAM launches from . . . south of the airfield," said Kimmitt, US military deputy director for operations.

The attack marked the first time fighters have hit an aircraft using the airport, although guerrillas have downed five US military helicopters in recent weeks, using shoulder-fired missiles. None of the three-member European crew of the cargo plane was injured, but the wing of the aircraft sustained serious damage.

On Saturday, military and coalition authorities announced the suspension of all civilian flights into the airport, which serves as the hub for military and humanitarian supplies for Iraq.

But last night, coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said the coalition had not suspended flights and had no intention to do so. He said service had only been disrupted by the presence of the damaged DHL plane on one of the landing strips.

Kimmitt refused to discuss eyewitness accounts from Mosul that two soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were pummeled and mutilated by angry mobs after being killed in an urban ambush.

"It is our policy that we do not get specific on injuries sustained by soldiers," he said. "We're not going to get ghoulish about this."

But military sources confirmed accounts that the soldiers were killed, apparently by gunfire, as their vehicle was stuck in traffic. Then the bodies were stabbed and struck with pieces of concrete while a jeering mob looted the civilian transport, running off with weapons and the soldiers' knapsacks. An attempt to torch the vehicle was interrupted by the arrival of a US military patrol, which cordoned off the area.

A spokesman for the US Airborne Division confirmed that the soldiers were killed while traveling between military posts.

In the other deadly attack, a Fourth Infantry Division soldier was killed when a roadside bomb detonated as an American convoy drove along a road in Baqubah, 40 miles north of Baghdad, according to a military spokesman. Baqubah, in an area known as the Sunni triangle, was the scene on Saturday of a deadly suicide bombing attack on an Iraqi police station.

Three US civilian contractors were wounded in another bombing near the northern oil city of Kirkuk, military officials confirmed. The blast occurred on the compound of the National Oil Co., and the three Americans -- employees of Kellogg Brown & Root -- suffered cuts from flying debris.

Elsewhere yesterday, gunmen killed the Iraqi police chief of Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, and his bodyguard and driver, the Associated Press reported, citing US and Iraqi officials. No details were released.

In Baghdad, in an occasionally testy exchange with reporters, Kimmitt was adamant that the United States is winning a war that was thought to be over in May -- but which has produced more US casualties in recent months than during the invasion of Iraq.

"In every military engagement with the enemy, we prevail," he said. "This is an enemy that cannot break us militarily. Our soldiers are not afraid of this enemy."

Material from Knight Ridder was used in this report.

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