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2 U.S. soldiers killed in ambush

International aid workers also ambushed

Thousands of Shiites protest outside coalition headquarters in Baghdad Saturday.
Thousands of Shiites protest outside coalition headquarters in Baghdad Saturday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday and another was wounded after being ambushed with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The attack happened west of Mosul, in northern Iraq. The three soldiers, from the 101st Airborne Division, were brought to a hospital where two of them died, U.S. military officials said.

Assailants also attacked a convoy of international aid workers near Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, U.N. spokesman Ahmed Fawzi said. The driver of one vehicle was killed and another aid worker was injured when their vehicle crashed during the attack, Fawzi said.

The two vehicles in the convoy were carrying members of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, he said.

The Bush administration is under increasing pressure to bring in more allied troops to keep the peace and help rebuild Iraq, and Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested last week that Washington could seek a U.N. mandate for its occupation.

U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer said Sunday there are enough troops to keep order.

Bremer said a new U.N. Security Council resolution "would be helpful" to garner more international support, but only if it preserves U.S. control over the country.

Bremer told "Fox News Sunday" an international force was already at work in Iraq.

"There are 19 other countries already on the ground there working under our command, so it's not as if we don't have an international force there," Bremer said. "We have a very international force."

An estimated 13,000 troops, mostly British, are in Iraq along with 148,000 U.S. troops. India was asked to contribute 17,000 troops but said it would not contribute peacekeepers unless they had U.N. backing.

Sunday's deaths brought the total Americans killed in Iraq to 92 since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1. Of those, 26 deaths have occurred in July alone. Thirty-five of the 92 deaths were in hostile action.

In all, 229 members of the U.S. military been killed in the war, 150 of them in hostile action.

Bremer said the attacks "pose no strategic threat" to the U.S. efforts and said he does not believe more troops are necessary.

"The job we've got is tough. We've got a strategy for dealing with it in the security, economic and political fields. We're executing that strategy," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"It's going to take us time, it will cost money and we will unfortunately have more casualties as we go forward. But there's no question we have done the right thing."

"These attacks are in a very small area of the country, a country which was traditionally Saddam's area of support," he said. "We will overpower them."

Bremer acknowledged there appeared to be some coordination of the attacks, but on a local and regional level and not on a national level. And he said he regrets "the death of any serviceman or woman."

"This is not a massive uprising by disgruntled factory workers," he said. "These are professional killers, members of the Fedayeen Saddam, Baathists, former members of the Republican Guard."

More mass Iraqi protests

Reports that U.S. troops had surrounded a cleric's home in the Shiite holy city of Najaf about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad prompted about 10,000 protesters to take to the streets Sunday.

The office of 29-year-old cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said American armored personnel carriers had ringed his house Saturday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Chris Conlin, commander of coalition forces in the city, called the allegations a "lie."

He called Sadr a "frustrated" and "ill-informed" individual attempting to make a "desperate" bid to increase his base of power.

The demonstrations -- which were largely peaceful with no reported injuries -- followed a similar protest Saturday by more than 3,000 Iraqi Shiites outside the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad.

U.S. Marines have been patrolling Najaf in recent weeks, and U.S. officials have begun recruiting for a new Iraqi army there. During a Friday sermon, Sadr called for volunteers for an army that would be "neither for Saddam [Hussein] nor for the Americans."

Conlin denied reports Najaf was becoming a hotbed of anti-American sentiment. "What he wants to do is bring in people from other areas to support him," Conlin said. "Those who know him least like him best, and that's what you're seeing here."

Sadr's popularity among Iraqi Shiites stems in great part from the notoriety and influence of his father, Ayatollah Mohamed Baqr al-Sadr, who is believed to have been assassinated by Saddam.

Sadr also has urged Iraqis to protest the newly formed Iraqi governing council, the majority of which is composed of Shiite Muslims. He has stopped short of calling on U.S. troops to leave Iraq but says Iraqis must choose their leader.

The council -- which first met a week ago -- is composed of 13 Shiite Muslims, five Sunni Muslims, five Kurds, one Assyrian Christian and one Turkmen. They represent Iraq's seven main political parties and include three women and prominent tribal leaders.

It is the first Iraqi governing body that Sunni Muslims -- like those who made up most of Saddam's regime -- do not dominate. Shiites constitute about 60 percent of the country's 24 million people. (List of members)

Other developments

• The military will announce a rotation plan for U.S. troops in Iraq sometime this week, Pentagon sources said. Sources said the plan would identify which troops would replace the remainder of the battle-weary 3rd Infantry Division and that the replacements would be "active duty Army troops." The division was the first to reach Baghdad and has had many casualties.

• The White House has released portions of the classified National Intelligence Estimate in an attempt to show why speech writers included a now-disputed line in Bush's State of the Union address relating to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The document concluded there was "compelling evidence" Saddam was trying to restart his nuclear program, but also included State Department concerns about the accuracy of intelligence that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. (Full story)

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