At least four US soldiers wounded south of Baghdad; Rumsfeld insists Syria harboring escaped Iraqi leaders
At least four U.S. soldiers were wounded on Sunday when they came under sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire south of Baghdad while clearing an Iraqi arms dump, senior officers told Reuters.
"There was an explosion and then they came under direct fire," one said, adding that the incident occured while soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were clearing rockets and mortar rounds at Mahmudiya, 40 km south of central Baghdad.
"Someone fired at them from a building, either over or through a crowd," another officer said. "Because of the firing, the crowd dispersed and we had four soldiers hit."
Officers said one RPG round had been fired at the platoon, followed by sniper fire. They said the fire had come from a nearby building, which soldiers were now trying to clear. The wounded were evacuated to a field hospital.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday "there's no question" that some senior Iraqi leaders have fled to Syria. Some have remained in Syria, while others have moved on to different countries, Rumsfeld said. "We certainly are hopeful Syria will not become a haven for war criminals or terrorists," Rumsfeld said.
Busloads of Syrians have entered Iraq to fight against the U.S.-led coalition, Rumsfeld said. Some of them have been turned back to Syria, others have been captured and still others have been killed in firefights, he said.
U.S. troops captured one bus filled with Syrians as well as several hundred thousand dollars in cash and "leaflets suggesting that people would be rewarded for killing Americans," Rumsfeld said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Syria's deputy ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, who appeared after Rumsfeld on NBC's "Meet the Press," denied that his country was harboring escaped Iraqis. He said it was the responsibility of U.S. troops to monitor Iraq's western border with Syria.
Rumsfeld said he did not have solid evidence about the fate of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but "that regime is history forever... He either is dead or he is going to be caught; we'll find him, the world will find him."
Pockets of resistance as well as Fedayeen Saddam "death squads" remain in Iraq, Rumsfeld said. "The war isn't over. There are still people being killed. We lost some people last night," Rumsfeld said on CBS. (Albawaba.com)
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