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Soldiers' families speak out

Relative: 'We understand very vividly that freedom is not free'

Pfc. Kevin Ott in an undated family photo
Pfc. Kevin Ott in an undated family photo

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CNN's Ben Wedeman reports on two U.S. soldiers who have been found dead in Iraq
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Family members of two soldiers found dead Saturday told Americans that the war in Iraq has not ended and spoke of the cost of freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Linden, New Jersey, and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio were found dead approximately 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said, after an exhaustive search using helicopters, armored vehicles and tanks.

Renisse Philippe, Gladimir's father, spoke to reporters in Linden, New Jersey.

"Every day I returned back from work, I turned on the TV to see the news. But every day people die, people die," Philippe said. "The government says the war is over but the war is not over, that's what I say. People die every day -- almost every day."

Ott's brother-in-law, Jim Pack, said Ott joined the military in January 2002, motivated by the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"We understand very vividly that freedom is not free," Pack said. "The price is very high. And we understand that they have a job to do to ensure that freedom for us, and we are very proud of all of them."

The government is expected to classify the deaths as "hostile," raising to 23 the total number of U.S. troops killed by hostile fire in Iraq since the end of major combat was announced May 1. Six British troops have died in hostile fire during the same period -- all in an incident this past week.

Renisse Philippe said his son leaves behind a son and an ex-wife in Germany. He said his son had also been stationed in Russia and Haiti, and had much training and experience for facing hostile situations.

Pack said Ott loved being a member of the military.

"Absolutely loved it," Pack told reporters. "He'd actually come out and said it. He'd finally found his niche."

Ott's family expressed condolences to Philippe's relatives and those of all the other soldiers who have died in the effort.

A number of casualties occurred in recent days.

In the latest reported assault on coalition forces, a U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded Friday night when their convoy was attacked in a northern neighborhood of Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said.

An Iraqi, who was working as an interpreter, was also wounded in the attack just before 11 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) Friday in the district of Thawra, the spokesman said.

The wounded were taken to the Army's 28th combat support hospital in Baghdad.

A day earlier, two U.S. troops were killed and eight wounded, the military said.

One U.S. military official has called the rash of confrontations between Iraqis and U.S. personnel a "classic phase of insurgency."

It was not immediately clear how Ott and Philippe died, but they were last reported traveling in a Humvee near a checkpoint that has been the site of attacks against U.S. forces.

Twelve people were in custody in connection with the case, officials said.

Also, on Saturday night two explosions were heard in Baghdad's Al Salihiya district, according to Iraqis and U.S. soldiers near the site of the explosion. There were no reports of causalities in the incident.

U.S. soldiers guarding the Iraqi National Museum said the explosions came as a vehicle approached their position and sped away.

Several Iraqi witnesses near the museum said two men driving in a red Volkswagen threw grenades in an attempt to hit a U.S. Paladin Howitzer tank that was adjacent to a small office building. The men missed and instead struck the front of the building that housed a travel agency and a restaurant.

Neither of the stores were occupied at the time of the explosions which occurred at about 9:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. EDT).

Within a few days, Central Command will complete a review of the progress made in Operation Desert Scorpion, which has netted hundreds of suspects and large amounts of weapons, the Pentagon sources said.

The U.S. military is considering whether to alter its current efforts to bring an end to the anti-coalition attacks, Pentagon sources said Friday. But Defense officials said there is no current plan to change the military strategy.

Operation Desert Scorpion is the largest military deployment since the height of the Iraq war.

Powell: 'We're going to stick with it'

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, asked Friday about the mounting casualties, told reporters, "It's not possible yet to characterize what's happening in terms such as 'an organized insurgency' or 'it has a central nervous system directing it.'

"We are seeing a combination of leftover Baathists taking it out on the soldiers who have come to provide security and hope for the Iraqi people, Fedayeen (Saddam's paramilitary fighters), (and) there are a lot of criminals who are loose."

The region is also still gripped by looting, he added.

But Powell said he is "quite confident" of the ability of chief U.S. Civil Administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer and Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, the next head of the U.S. Central Command taking over from Gen. Tommy Franks, "to impose security on the region in due course. But it will take some time, and regrettably there will be casualties."

"I mourn for the loss of every young man or woman who puts his life or her life at risk and loses their life in the cause of freedom," he added. "But we're going to stick with it and it's going to take time and patience ... we will take whatever time is necessary.

CNN Correspondents Ben Wedeman and Barbara Starr, Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf, and Producers Tom Etzer, Maria Fleet and Ayman Mohyelding contributed to this report


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