Suspected pro-Saddam Hussein insurgents fired a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. military C-130 transport plane as it was landing at Baghdad International Airport Wednesday, but missed the target, a coalition military spokesman said.
The attack came amid a rash of new violence that claimed four lives: an American soldier, a young girl hit by attackers targeting U.S. troops, and an Iraqi mayor appointed by occupation forces and his son, and
The soldier was killed and three others injured in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their supply convoy made its way along the main highway west of Baghdad.
Sgt. Diego Baez said he was in the vehicle that was most badly damaged, but managed to escape injury. He wept as he described the dead soldier.
"We slept next to each other just last night. He was my best friend." Baez said.
In other developments:
The airport attack occurred at 8:45 a.m. The military said it was investigating but would give no further details about whether the plane was carrying passengers or cargo.
Airport security is a major concern for the U.S.-led coalition. Baghdad International Airport is home to an estimated 10,000 U.S. soldiers and is used to ferry troops and supplies into the capital. The United Nations and international aid agencies also use the airport in their reconstruction efforts.
L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S official in Iraq, had said he wanted to get commercial air service restarted by mid-July, but the coalition has since backed off that date, citing security concerns.
"We are still working with problems related to security, immigration and customs," Bremer said Tuesday. "We're not ready at this time."
The eight-year-old Iraqi child died when an attacker threw a grenade into a U.S. military vehicle guarding a bank in the upscale al-Mansour neighborhood in west Baghdad. A soldier and four adult Iraqi bystanders were injured.
In the extreme south of Baghdad, a midday explosion badly damaged a U.S. Humvee and three U.S. casualties were seen taken away by an Iraqi witness. The coalition had no information on that incident.
The mayor, a pro-American leader of Hadithah in western Iraq, was shot and killed along with one of his nine sons, the U.S. military reported.
A U.S. military spokesman said he could offer no other details about the mayor's assassination, but the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera said Mohammed Nayil al-Jurayfi's car was shot up by unidentified attackers as he drove through the city of about 150,000 about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Al-Jazeera also said residents of the city had accused the mayor of collaborating with coalition forces. The Qatar-based broadcaster said al-Jurayfi's car caught fire after the attack.
Hadithah sits on the main road to Syria and lies within the so-called "Sunni Triangle" that stretches to the west and north of Baghdad, where pro-Saddam insurgents have routinely attacked U.S. soldiers.
U.S. soldiers have come under increasingly ferocious attacks in recent weeks — reaching an average of 12 attacks a day. A total of 33 U.S. soldiers have been killed in hostile action since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities on May 1.
The Pentagon said that as of Monday 144 U.S. personnel had been killed in combat since the start of the Iraq war. Since then, at least two U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraqi attacks, bringing the total just short of the 147 killed in combat during the 1991 Gulf War.
The explosion that killed the American solider occurred at about 9 a.m. in Abu Ghraib as a 20-vehicle military convoy was passing a wrecked truck that had been abandoned along the side of the road.
After the explosion other soldiers arrived in Bradley fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers. They began house-to-house searches in the villages surrounding the scene of the attack.
Also Wednesday, a U.S. Marine died in the southern city of Hilla when he fell off a building he was guarding, the military said. The soldier was rushed to a hospital but died of his injuries.
On Tuesday, Bremer linked the length of the U.S. occupation to Iraq's political process, saying that American forces would remain in the country until Iraqis agree on a new constitution and set up a democratic government.