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US Soldier Wounded in Execution-Style Shooting in Iraq - 2003-07-06


A gunmen in Baghdad has shot and critically wounded a U.S. soldier, a day after the killing of a British journalist in the capital, and an attack on a non-government organization in northern Iraq.

Attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq appear to have spread to other sectors of the international community, putting journalists and aid workers on edge.

Two execution-style attacks in Baghdad occurred within 24 hours of each other. In separate incidents, a British journalist and a U.S. soldier were both shot at close range in the back of the head with a handgun.

Witnesses said the American soldier was shot while patrolling the campus of the University of Baghdad. The gunman disappeared into a crowd of students. U.S. troops immediately sealed off the campus, and students leaving the university said they were being searched on their way out.

The U.S. military maintains heavy security on the campus, since a large number of American troops are housed there. But the university remains open to students and faculty, so thousands of people come and go from the campus each day.

In an earlier incident, witnesses say British journalist Richard Wilde was talking to people on an Iraqi street corner Saturday when someone walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. Iraqi bystanders loaded him into a taxi and took him to a hospital, but his injury was too serious, and he died.

According to his bereaved colleagues, he was a 24-year-old freelance television producer who had been in Iraq for only nine days. Mr. Wilde was the first journalist to be killed in Iraq since major fighting was declared ended in early May, although another was badly wounded last week in an attack on U.S. troops.

The third incident took place Saturday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The United Nations said someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the head office of the International Organization for Migration, a non-government organization that works with refugees.

U.N. spokesman Hamid Abdel Jaber said the blast slightly injured one local Iraqi guard and damaged two cars as well as the wall of the compound. "So far we consider it an isolated incident, pending the investigation. A team of security experts has been dispatched to Mosul, and we are waiting for the results of the investigation," he said.

There have been several attacks on U.N. facilities and personnel in the past few months, but Mr. Abdel Jaber said they generally appear to have been motivated by crime.

He said it seems likely that the attack on the IOM office in Mosul had a political motive. It is not clear what that motive might be.

Mosul is in the Kurdish-controlled north of the country, and it seems unlikely that the attack there is related to the ones in central Iraq, near Baghdad.

But conflict of another sort has been brewing in the north. The attack occurred not long after U.S. troops in another Kurdish-controlled city, Sulimaniyah, arrested 11 Turkish special forces soldiers, reportedly in connection with a plot to attack the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk. Turkey has strongly condemned the arrests, and the incident has strained diplomatic relations between Turkey and the United States.