06/28 - Two missing U.S. soldiers found dead - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

06/28 - Two missing U.S. soldiers found dead

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Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2003 10:03 am | Updated: 2:21 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The bodies of two U.S. soldiers missing for days were discovered early Saturday northwest of Baghdad, as the toll rises past 200 for Americans killed since war started in Iraq.

News of their killings came amid a torrent of guerrilla-style attacks and sabotage that has marred U.S. efforts to re-establish order since Saddam Hussein's ouster. About a third of U.S. troops killed in the Iraqi conflict have died in attacks or accidents since major combat was declared over May 1.

Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, 37, of Linden, N.J., and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, were reported missing Wednesday from the town of Balad, 25 miles north of Baghdad.

Soldiers on the ground and using Apache attack helicopters had scoured the area, and U.S. interrogators were questionning at least six men arrested in the soldiers' disappearance.

Their bodies were found 20 miles northwest of the capital early Saturday, U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nicholas Balice said in Tampa, Florida.

"We have always anticipated and were prepared for what we term as pockets of resistance," Balice said.

"We anticipate that we'll be dealing with the situation for some time. But our soldiers are trained, they're prepared, and they're over there knowing that this is the mission they have at hand."

At least 61 U.S. troops have died since the official end of fighting in Iraq - at least 23 of them in attacks.

In the latest violence, attackers lobbed a grenade at a U.S. convoy making its way through the predominantly Shiite Thawra neighborhood of northeast Baghdad just after 11 p.m. Friday. One American soldier was killed, and four soldiers and a civilian Iraqi interpreter were injured, military spokesman Sgt. Patrick Compton said.

Also Friday, a soldier shopping in a market was shot in the neck and critically wounded, part of the violence that has put American troops increasingly on edge. That same day, an 11-year-old Iraqi boy was gunned down by American troops who mistook him for a gunman.

The persistent drumbeat of attacks and ever-harsher U.S. crackdowns has sparked 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 117 degrees.

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

"We think it was an act of arson," said Lt. Col. James Otwell, a civil affairs liaison working with the Iraqi fire department.

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

On Saturday, British soldiers moved back into Majar al-Kabir, a predominantly Shiite southern town where clashes earlier this week that left six soldiers dead. A group of Shiite clerics and prominent town officials greeted the soldiers in a 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, of Dover, England, who made initial contact with the Iraqi delegation.

The daily bloodshed has overshadowed progress made since the end of the war. Iraq's vital oil industry has resumed, if only at a fraction of its prewar output, and will be pumping much-needed dollars into state coffers. Police and court systems are also coming back on line, providing hope for improved law and order despite persistent crime.

Even something as simple as an evening concert is seen as a victory in occupied Baghdad, where bandits roam unlit nighttime streets and residents live largely by candlelight.

Iraq's National Symphony Orchestra held its first concert Friday since Saddam's ouster, performing a patriotic song that predates the former dictator and was rarely played during his brutal, 35-year reign. Saddam didn't like the song, "My Nation," which contains no mention of him or his Baath party.

Many Iraqis present had tears in their eyes. U.S. soldiers, some sitting with their guns, clapped after the performance, and L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, stood in respect. "My nation ... My nation ... Am I going to see you safe, blessed, victorious and esteemed?" the Iraqi audience sang as the orchestra played.

Still, the killing and wounding of Iraqi civilians has heightened distress over the U.S. occupation - resentment felt by Iraqis who welcomed the fall of Saddam as well as by Saddam loyalists blamed for violence against U.S. forces.

Some Iraqi civilians have died in anti-American attacks, such as two national electricity workers killed Thursday when ambushers threw grenades at a U.S.-led convoy.

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

Also Friday, insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. troops in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, and a U.S. patrol exchanged fire with attackers near Habaniyah, just west of Fallujah. The incidents caused no damage or injuries.

Soldiers at a checkpoint Friday arrested four Iraqi men after finding rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and grenades in their vehicle, the military said.

The daily grind of ambushes has hampered U.S. efforts at reconstruction.

"These are guys who want us to fail. They'd rather see their country burn than have it succeed," said Maj. Scott Slaten, of the Army's 1st Armored Division. He said the attacks won't stop coalition troops, "but it does slow us down a little because we have to focus more effort on security."

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