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US Investigates Civilian Deaths in Iraq - 2004-03-11

The U.S. military is investigating whether two U.S. civilians working for the Department of Defense were killed by Iraqi police, or by assailants posing as police.

A senior coalition official said the FBI is trying to determine if the assailants were actually members of the Iraqi police, or if they were posing as police officers. A spokesman said, if the shooters were part of the police force, the implications are enormous.

As officials announced the investigation of the civilian killings, two Iraqi women who were working for American forces were killed in Basra when gunmen opened fire on their car as they were traveling home.

American investigators are struggling to determine who is behind the rash of recent attacks against people linked to the U.S.-led Coalition Authority.

Analyst Mohammed Kadry Said, military adviser at Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says U.S. intelligence is facing an uphill battle because of increasing opposition in the region.

"A lot of people will hesitate to be painted as an agent for the Americans," he said. "The problem for the Americans is the people inside Iraq, and, unfortunately, outside of Iraq are not proud of what they did. They did good things in my view, in Iraq. It was an important step, but something is lacking. The people in the countries are not proud of what America did. That's why, in the media, they call it occupation, while the Americans call it liberation."

Mr. Said says he believes that, in the Middle East, public rejection of American policy is not limited to Iraq, but includes opposition to U.S. policies throughout the Middle East.

"This is a very bad thing that people feel happy about what they call resistance," said Mohammed Kadry Said. "It is not resistance. In my view, those people are against the future of Iraq and the future of the region. Something in the job is going wrong. That is the secret of this paradox."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said an autopsy into the death of Palestinian militant Abu Abbas confirmed he died of heart disease. Abbas, who was the ringleader of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, had been in U.S. custody since his capture in Iraq last year.