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3 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Baghdad
Infantryman Shot at University Campus
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 7, 2003; Page A12
BAGHDAD, July 7 (Monday) -- Three U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks here in a 13-hour period this weekend, including a soldier who was shot in the neck Sunday as he walked out of a student cafeteria at Baghdad University after buying a soft drink, according to witnesses and U.S. military officials.
The first attack, on the campus of Iraq's most prestigious university at midday Sunday, unsettled U.S. military officers, who said that until then, the campus had been tranquil and welcoming toward U.S. soldiers even as assaults against troops have escalated across the chaotic city.
The second soldier died in a gunfight after his patrol was attacked by two Iraqi gunmen in a north Baghdad neighborhood at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, a U.S. military spokesman said today. One Iraqi gunman died in the incident and the second was injured, he said.
The third soldier was killed when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in another north Baghdad neighborhood at about 1 a.m. today, the spokesman said.
All three soldiers belonged to the 1st Armored Division. The military has not released their names, pending notification of family members.
In the attack at the university Sunday, students and faculty members who were searched by U.S. military police as they left the campus said the U.S. soldiers -- some of whom live in a building on the grounds -- are far too complacent and unaware of the undercurrent of hostilities at the university, which was run by Uday Hussein, a son of former president Saddam Hussein.
"When that soldier went into the cafeteria, I told my friends, 'He doesn't understand anything, he's crazy,' " said Ali Jumaa, 26, who said he was sitting outside the student center and witnessed the attack. "He was an easy target."
A military spokesman said the soldier had been assigned to patrol the university. The soldier was evacuated for treatment after the shooting and died several hours later.
At least 29 American soldiers and six British troops have been killed in hostile actions since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities on May 1.
The assaults against U.S. soldiers and Iraqis cooperating with U.S.-led military and reconstruction operations in Iraq are growing more audacious and more frequent, a trend troubling to Americans and Iraqis.
The tactic used in the shooting at the university was similar to the killing of a British free-lance cameraman, Richard Wild, 24, who died after he was shot in the head at point-blank range with a small-caliber pistol at noon on Saturday. He was interviewing a group of Iraqis on a busy Baghdad street at the time. On Saturday night, Iraqi men in a white pickup truck charged U.S. soldiers on a street in Baghdad and fired a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at them. The troops shot and killed two of the attackers, according to news services.
Some Baghdad University students said they feared that the presence of U.S. troops on the campus would endanger the students they are trying to protect.
Students and faculty members cited the university as an example of an institution where a superficial calm masks the presence of elements loyal to Hussein and vociferously opposed to the U.S.-led occupation forces.
"We still have many Baathists working here, and they hold secret meetings," said Khalid Abel Chalabi, 23, a mathematics student. "And we have many student members of the Baathist party."
Uday Hussein had maintained a special interest in Baghdad University, the largest educational institution in the country. He occupied an office on campus, where admission was contingent on Baath Party membership, and all senior staff and faculty, many of whom remain in their jobs, were party loyalists, according to students and faculty members.
Even though U.S. soldiers have become a common sight on the campus, the broad-shouldered soldier who strode alone into the cafeteria of the engineering school just after noon aroused attention.
"We were watching him, he was something different," said Jumaa, adding that he had just finished a tutoring session in the student center and was sitting outside chatting with friends.
"While he was coming down the steps from the cafeteria, we heard a pistol shot," Jumaa said. "I saw him fall down just in front of me," he said, motioning to a spot about 10 feet away. "He was shot in the back of the neck. We all ran."
Jumaa's account could not be independently corroborated because U.S. troops sealed off the university for hours as they searched for the suspect. Military officials declined to discuss details of the incident.
Lt. Col. Peter Jones, commander of the Task Force 16 Infantry responsible for security of the southern Baghdad area where the university is located, described the incident as "an aberration."
"We have a very good relationship both with the students and the faculty," Jones said.
But as dozens of soldiers swarmed around the main campus exit and required all those leaving the university to undergo a body search, the sentiments expressed about the soldiers' presence was decidedly mixed.
"They always come to patrol," said Noor Adel, 21, a computer science student, dressed in a conservative long coat and a pastel head scarf. "They enter places they don't have the right to go. They're not supposed to go inside to watch girls."
Later Sunday, the United States agreed to release 11 Turkish special forces detained Friday in northern Iraq, a Turkish official said. The detentions, in the city of Sulaymaniyah, outraged Turkey and deepened mistrust of the United States in Turkey.