Missing soldiers found dead

Two US soldiers missing for days from a checkpost have been found dead north of the capital, a senior US army officer said.

Two US soldiers missing for days from a checkpost have been found dead north of the capital, a senior US army officer said.

The soldiers and their Humvee went missing Wednesday from the town of Balad, 25 miles north of Baghdad. The officer, who declined to give his name, said their bodies have been found. He gave no further details.

A massive search including Apache attack helicopters had been scouring the area around Balad, and US interrogators have been questioning at least six men arrested in the disappearance.

The soldiers had been identified as Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Linden, New Jersey, and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio.

News of the deaths came amid a disquieting drumbeat of guerrilla-style attacks and sabotage that have marred US efforts to re-establish order in Iraq.

On Friday, a US soldier was killed in an ambush, and another was shot in the neck and critically injured. An 11-year-old Iraqi boy was gunned down by American troops who mistook him for a gunman.

At least 61 US troops have died in Iraq since major combat was declared over on May 1, including at least 23 in attacks.

The latest violence occurred just after 11pm on Friday, when attackers lobbed a grenade at a US convoy making its way through the predominantly Shiite Thawra neighbourhood of northeast Baghdad. One American soldier was killed and four were wounded, said military spokesman Sgt. Patrick Compton.

A civilian Iraqi interpreter was also wounded, he said.

The torrent of attacks and ever-harsher US crackdowns is sparking frustration on both sides.

Saboteurs also have been attacking Baghdad’s power grid and oil pipelines, foiling coalition efforts to restore basic services like water and electricity as temperatures climb as high as 47C.

Today a cloud of black smoke billowed from one of Baghdad’s largest textbook printing plants, and coalition forces arrested two men in the incident.

Until recently, almost all violence against occupying forces occurred in Sunni areas north and west of Baghdad, where Saddam mined support. But attacks this week have spread into the Shiite majority south.

Also today, British soldiers moved back into Majar al-Kabir, a predominantly Shiite southern town that was the scene of a bloody confrontation earlier this week that left six soldiers dead. The soldiers were met by a group of Shiite clerics and prominent town officials in a peaceful ceremony aimed at putting the acrimony in the past.

“We are not here for retribution. We are here to re-establish communications and get the (rebuilding) process back on the road,” said Capt. Guy Winter, a 30-year-old from Dover, who made initial contact with the Iraqi delegation.

In Friday’s civilian death, however, U.S. soldiers in western Baghdad thought they were shooting at a possible attacker carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. Instead, they killed a boy on the roof of his home.

“The soldiers determined the situation was hostile and engaged the individual,” said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Sean Gibson. “It was not until after the search was under way that they discovered that it was an 11-year-old boy.”

The U.S. civil affairs officer shot in the neck was critically wounded and underwent surgery Friday. A man with a pistol shot the soldier at close range and fled through the market crowds, said Ammar Saad, a 44-year-old vendor.

The soldiers wounded in the convoy attack late Friday were evacuated to a combat support hospital, Compton said. No arrests were made and no further details were immediately available.

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