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2 US Soldiers Die After Attack on Military Convoys in Iraq - 2003-08-27

The U.S. military says two American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in separate attacks in the Baghdad area.

U.S. military authorities say the first attack occurred outside the town of Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad. One soldier was killed and three were wounded in the incident.

The second attack followed a few minutes later against a convoy inside the capital city. One soldier died and two were wounded in this incident. Officials say the attackers used improvised roadside bombs in both incidents.

The military blames such attacks on groups loyal to the deposed government of Saddam Hussein. The casualties bring to 281 the number of coalition soldiers who have been killed in Iraq since the war began. More than half have died since the end of major combat was declared in early May.

In addition, Iraqi police officials say that two Iraqi policemen and three civilians were killed in a shootout with robbers in central Baghdad.

The incidents follow a bomb attack against a Shi'ite cleric Sunday in Najaf, in which three of his bodyguards were killed, and several days of sectarian clashes around the northern city of Kirkuk in which at least a dozen people were killed.

Security concerns have been rising following the terrorist attacks against the U.N. headquarters and the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. These have lead some humanitarian organizations to evacuate their expatriate staff members.

The charity organizations OXFAM and Save The Children became the latest to announce such moves. The Red Cross had already announced it is reducing its expatriate staff by as much as half. The organizations emphasize they plan to continue their work in Iraq.

The current head of the rotating chairmanship of Iraq's Governing Council, Ibrahim Jafari, told reporters in Baghdad that the council is deeply concerned about the lack of security in the country.

Mr. Jafari said the security situation is not stable and there are numerous security violations. He says the council needs to mobilize security forces and increase the size of the police force to 65,000 officers.

Mr. Jafari added that a cabinet is to be announced in the coming days with nearly two dozen ministers. He indicated this is to address growing dissatisfaction with the lack of progress on the part of the Iraqi authorities and the U.S. led provisional authority in establishing security and restoring basic services in the country.

Mr. Jafari had just returned from a tour of seven Arab nations aimed at bolstering international support for the Governing Council. He called the trip successful, saying his group was well received by Arab governments and the Arab League Secretary-General.

The Arab League has refused to recognize Iraq's Governing Council, saying it was not elected by the Iraqi people.