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U.S. military says 16 troops killed in past 3 days

Bush: 'I know what we're doing in Iraq is right'

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The deaths of two U.S. Army pilots Sunday and the announcement of eight additional American military deaths in Iraq pushed the total number of troops killed there since Friday to 16, according to U.S. Central Command.

The most recent deaths were two crew members in an Apache attack helicopter, which was shot down by surface-to-air missile fire Sunday west of Baghdad International Airport, coalition officials said.

A rapid-reaction force was deployed after the 1st Cavalry AH-64 was shot down around 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET), the officials said.

Sunday's attack came as the fate of several hostages taken in a spate of civilian kidnappings in Iraq remained unknown and as top coalition officials worked to achieve a lasting cease-fire with Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

President Bush spoke to reporters Sunday at Fort Hood, Texas, where he spent part of the Easter holiday visiting troops.

"I know what we're doing in Iraq is right," Bush said.

"It was a tough week last week, and my prayers and thoughts are with those who pay the ultimate price for our security," the president said.

Since Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1, 2003, 528 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, 362 under hostile fire.

The 16 Americans who have died since Friday include: Spc. Jonathan R. Kephart, 21, of Oil City, Pennsylvania, who died Friday of wounds received the previous day; and Sgt. Felix M. Delgreco, 22, of Simsbury, Connecticut, who was killed in a blast from an improvised explosive device in Baghdad.

Elsewhere, a soldier was killed when a fuel truck convoy was ambushed near Baghdad's airport, and another soldier died in the Taji region when insurgents attacked a quick-reaction force that had responded to an earlier mortar attack.

Three soldiers were killed in a coordinated attack in Baghdad, and three more died in an ambush near Tikrit. A soldier was killed in heavy fighting in Ba'qubah, and one soldier killed in a convoy attack in northeast Baghdad.

On Saturday, a mortar attack at Balad Air Base in Anbar province left an airman and a Marine dead.

Meanwhile Sunday, one hostage taken in a spate of kidnappings, British citizen Gary Teeley, has been released, the British Foreign Ministry announced. (Full story)

But there was no word on the fate of other civilian hostages being held by insurgents.

They include American Thomas Hamill, who was seen on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera sitting in front of an Iraqi flag as one of his apparent abductors imposed a deadline of 6 a.m. Sunday (10 p.m. Saturday ET) for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Fallujah.

The abductor warned he would "be treated worse than the four Americans that were killed in Fallujah" -- a reference to the four civilians whose mutilated bodies were dragged through the city's streets -- if their demand was not met.

A separate deadline for three Japanese hostages also passed with no word. The kidnappers threatened to burn the Japanese hostages alive Sunday unless Japan pulls its troops out of Iraq. (Full story)

Fighting in Fallujah despite cease-fire efforts

American Thomas Hamill is shown with one of his captors in Iraq.

Chief U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer said on ABC's "This Week" that no terms of a cease-fire for Fallujah had been imposed, but coalition officials were trying to get one in place.

"What we're trying to do is simply ... have the insurgents stop firing on the Marines. And then we'll have a delegation from the [Iraqi] Governing Council go in, and we'll try to find out how we can proceed from there," Bremer said.

In Kut, in southern Iraq, Ukrainian forces were overrun by the Mehdi Army a few days ago, but U.S. forces said Saturday that they regained about 70 percent of the city from the banned militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The U.S. 1st Armored Division has engaged the militia, and by daybreak Saturday had seized control of the radio and television station, as well as a key bridge that provides access to all routes into the city.

"We're in a testing time right now," Bremer told ABC. "We always knew there were going to be some severe tests as we moved forward, particularly as we get closer to the Iraqi assumption of sovereignty and the beginning of a democratic process."

The coalition has set a June 30 deadline for the transfer of power in Iraq.

"The people we're fighting, whether they're in Fallujah or whether it's Muqtada al-Sadr's mob, are basically anti-democratic forces, and they are now in the process of coming out like a poison that's been there for a long time in the body, and we're going to have to deal with it," he said. "That's what we're doing."

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