Two U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq Saturday
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an explosion near the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, a U.S. military official said, as U.S.-led coalition forces were on alert for a threatened "day of resistance" by anti-coalition guerrillas.
The soldiers, from the 101st Airborne Division, were killed when their convoy struck an improvised explosive device, the U.S. military official said. Two other soldiers were injured.
But there were no reports of anti-coalition violence in Baghdad Saturday, according to the U.S. administrator for Iraq. L. Paul Bremer.
The U.S. military had stepped up air and ground patrols after the U.S. Consulate Office in Baghdad warned of a "day of resistance" planned Saturday or Sunday. The consulate said U.S. military patrols, hotels, markets, and non-governmental organizations could be among the sites attacked.
Bremer said leaflets distributed in Baghdad had called for a "day of resistance." Bremer said the leaflets did not result in a "general strike."
"Business was active and usual," he told reporters in the capital.
The relative calm in the capital followed a fight on Friday between U.S. troops and Iraqi crowds in Baghdad that left 14 Iraqis dead, according to a U.S. military official. The violence began when two grenades were thrown at a U.S. patrol around the Abu Ghraib market, according to the U.S. military official. U.S. troops returned fire and the Iraqis began firing small arms and throwing rocks, a military official said.
Emphasis on turning security over to Iraqis
In an effort to increase security and stability in the country, Bremer said the United States is stepping up efforts to hand over more responsibility to Iraqis themselves.
The United States will speed up the training of Iraqi police and military, he said, and the size of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps will be doubled by March, he said.
"We will have over 200,000 Iraqis involved in their own security forces by September next year," Bremer said.
Despite the attacks, the U.S.-led coalition had been able to reopen courts, build jails and recruit 50,000 Iraqi police officers, Bremer said.
A coalition military official said there are 33 attempted attacks against U.S. troops every day. Coalition officials blame forces loyal to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, terrorist groups and other insurgents for the attacks.
Bremer said officials believe Saddam is alive and in Iraq, though there is "no indication" he is behind the attacks. However, he said, "There is some sign of control over these attacks at a regional level."
"His capture, or killing him, is one of the top priorities," Bremer added.
Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said opponents of the U.S.-led occupation forces have been altering their tactics -- shifting from targeting coalition forces to targeting other international and institutions that they see as "key to the development of the country."
"We saw clear attacks against the Iraqi people," he said. "They were against the Iraqi people and the international community."
He said that many Iraqis and Iraqi police have been killed in recent attacks, including Monday's four suicide bombings on three police stations and the headquarters of the International Red Cross which left more than 30 people dead.
"What we're attempting here is revolutionary, not just for the people of Iraq but for the region as a whole," said Sanchez. "Our enemies understand and they fear this and are doing everything they can to stop the process from going forward."
• The U.S. State Department on Friday warned Americans not to travel to Iraq, advising them that civil aviation has been threatened and international groups are cutting back their staff amid a flurry of attacks.
• Australia also issued a warning Friday, saying it had received "credible reports of imminent terrorist threats to the district of the al Hamra hotel in central Baghdad" and advised all its nationals to leave Iraq and defer travel.
• A U.S. soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed Friday and four others wounded when a homemade bomb exploded near Khaldiya, a town west of Baghdad, a spokesman with the U.S.-led coalition said.
• On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives approved the $87 billion Iraq and Afghanistan spending bill, clearing the way for final Senate approval and a presidential signature in the coming days. The 298-121 vote came after the Senate stripped from the bill a disputed provision requiring that half the $18.4 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects be loans, not grants. (Full story)