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Seven Spanish Intelligence Agents Killed by Insurgents in Iraq - 2003-11-29

Seven Spanish intelligence agents have been killed and one wounded in Iraq in an attack on their convoy on a road south of Baghdad.

Saturday's guerrilla-style attack occurred on a highway 30 kilometers south of Baghdad.

A team of Spanish intelligence agents, returning from a mission, were traveling in a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles when it came under fire. Minutes after the attack, witnesses say they saw two vehicles on fire and several bodies lying on the road.

A television crew from the British television network Sky News say they saw a crowd of people celebrating over the bodies.

Two other Spanish military personnel have been victims of anti-coalition violence in Iraq. Last month, an officer attached to Spain's intelligence agency was gunned down near his home in Baghdad. And a Spanish naval officer was among the 22 people killed in the August suicide bomb attack on the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations.

Spain was one of the staunchest supporters of the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Some 1,300 Spanish troops are in Iraq as part of a coalition to establish and maintain security.

Saturday's attack took place just hours after the commander of coalition forces, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, announced that attacks against coalition forces have declined by almost one-third in the past two weeks.

Despite the decline, more than 70 U.S. soldiers were killed by hostile fire in November, making it the deadliest month for American troops since the March invasion.

To combat anti-coalition opponents more effectively, General Sanchez says the military will soon become a more mobile force, relying less on tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles and more on lightly-equipped infantry units.

"I'm a commander that has a mission to accomplish and I have to structure the force accordingly, one that has right blend of light and heavy [infantry and armor] that is rapidly deployable over the battle space that I own," he said. "And we will have more infantry at the time and we'll be able to move that force."

General Sanchez says even with the use of more infantry soldiers, the total number of troops in Iraq will not increase.