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New Iraqi Attacks Dampen US Soldiers' Mood on July 4 Holiday - 2003-07-04


In Iraq, the U.S. military says, American troops have killed 11 Iraqi gunmen who attacked a convoy north of Baghdad. And, at least 17 U.S. soldiers were wounded in two other attacks Friday. The news of the attacks has brought a somber start to the troops' American Independence Day celebrations.

Attackers fired mortar rounds Friday morning into a U.S. military base in Balad, about 90 kilometers north of the capital, Baghdad, wounding 16 soldiers.

Fourteen soldiers have already returned to duty. But two suffered serious wounds and were evacuated to an unknown military medical facility.

U.S. troops in Balad say it was the first time that the base has been attacked. The base houses Task Force Iron Horse, a 33,000-member unit, which has been conducting raids in the area to flush out suspected loyalists to Iraq's deposed president, Saddam Hussein.

In the west Baghdad neighborhood of Kadamiyah, the U.S. military says, a soldier was injured after an attacker detonated an explosive device near an Army convoy. The explosion also injured three passengers in a civilian car. The neighborhood was also the site of Thursday's sniper attack on an American foot patrol unit, which wounded a soldier.

Late Thursday, a U.S. soldier was killed while protecting the newly reopened Baghdad Museum. The soldier was in the gunner's hatch of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when he was hit by small arms fire.

Despite the daily attacks, the U.S. military says it has not scaled back planned celebrations to commemorate American Independence Day. They include daylong barbecues, musical events and talent shows at bases around the country.

At a palace that once belonged to Saddam Hussein and is now the Baghdad headquarters for the U.S. Army, troops on Friday received a special treat, a visit from Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who delivered a rousing, morale-boosting speech.

The star of the Terminator movies says he came to Iraq to spend the day with the troops and to show his appreciation.

"I have to say, first of all, congratulations for saying 'hasta la vista, baby' to Saddam Hussein. I came from the United States to pump you all up," he said. "That is my mission. I said to myself, instead of sitting at home in Los Angeles on July 4th, I think I can do better, if I come to Iraq and to Kuwait and visit the American soldiers."

U.S. Army Captain Mike Kepner says Mr. Schwarzenegger's visit means more to the troops than simply meeting a movie star.

"Events like this are critical to what we do over here, because it gives us, the soldiers, the opportunity to see the support from the people in the (United) States," he said.

In northern Iraq, U.S. forces are jointly celebrating the 4th of July with Iraqi Kurds. The Kurds celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of the naming of their first government in 1992.

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