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Three More GIs Killed In Iraq

A grenade attack Saturday killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded four as they guarded a children's hospital northeast of Baghdad, scuttling hopes a widespread guerrilla insurgency might lose strength after the deaths of Saddam Hussein's elder sons.

In Mosul, engineers with the 101st Airborne Division tore down the badly damaged villa where Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed Tuesday in a four-hour gun battle with U.S. forces.

The home belonged to Sheik Nawaf al-Zaydan Muhhamad, a regional tribal leader and Saddam cousin who neighbors said tipped American troops that the Hussein brothers were at his house.

The U.S. occupation administration had offered $15 million each for information leading to Saddam's wanted sons and $25 million for Saddam. It was believed, although not confirmed by occupation military commanders, that Muhhamad was in protective custody.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said an investigation was under way with military officials in Iraq to determine who gets the reward money. The State Department said the money could be issued within the next few weeks.

The U.S. military said more Iraqi informants have been coming forward with tips since the killings of Odai and Qusai. And with the arrest Friday of some of Saddam's bodyguards in Tikrit, his hometown and power base, American forces say they are closing in on the deposed dictator.

The soldiers killed Saturday were part of the 4th Infantry Division, which came under grenade attack in Baqouba, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad. Witnesses told an Associated Press photographer that the soldiers were guarding the hospital because some of their wounded comrades were being treated there.

In other developments:

  • The first U.S. soldiers known to be facing charges of abusing prisoners during the Iraq war say they're innocent. The military has charged four military police from a Pennsylvania-based Army Reserve unit with punching and kicking prisoners at a POW camp in Iraq. The soldiers say they were acting in self-defense -- after Iraqi prisoners attacked them.
  • The commander of Iraq's national police academy was wounded in a raid against suspected carjackers Saturday in Baghdad's al-Shoala neighborhood, police told The Associated Press.
  • President Bush is contemplating major changes in the U.S. reconstruction of Iraq for the second time in three months, with the possible addition of one or more prominent figures to work alongside U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer in a stepped-up effort to solicit international assistance, The Washington Post reports in its Saturday editions. As part of the effort, the White House is considering asking several major figures, including former Secretary of State James Baker, the Post says.
  • Aides to two members of Iraq's American-picked Governing Council said Saturday that the group would name cabinet ministers and set up a committee to start drafting a constitution within two weeks. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
  • After an angry, intense and even violent debate, Japan's Parliament approved a law to send troops to Iraq, allowing Japanese ground forces to join allies in providing humanitarian assistance. But it was unclear whether troops would actually be dispatched.

    Saturday's deaths brought to 161 the number of troops killed in action since the start of the war, 14 more than in the 1991 Gulf War. The guerrilla attacks on American forces have averaged 12 a day, according to the military.

    Forty-seven American soldiers have died from hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May first. Fourteen soldiers have been killed in the last eight days.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi civilians on Saturday continued to debate the authenticity of video images of the bodies of Odai, 39, and Qusai, 37.

    The video was shot by journalists who viewed the autopsied bodies Friday, part of a U.S. military effort to persuade Iraqi people that the brothers - two of the most feared men in the ousted regime, second only to Saddam - were really dead.

    The video appeared to have been more believable than still photographs published Thursday of the brothers shortly after being killed. The photos showed only their heads and shoulders, their faces obscured by heavy beards, blood and gashes; the video showed the entire bodies, the faces shaved and reconstructed to appear lifelike.

    "When I saw them on TV, I was sorry. I hoped that they hadn't died too quickly," said Yassir Hussain, 45, a day laborer. "Odai took my innocent cousin to prison in 1984. Since then we haven't heard anything about him."

    Others said they looked forward to seeing the body of Saddam.

    "We were very happy to see their dead bodies on TV, and by the will of God we will see their father's corpse on TV soon," said Halla Karim Numan, a 35-year-old homemaker.

    The display appeared to be a calculated gamble by coalition authorities, who may have produced more convincing evidence but also offended Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere by altering the bodies and delaying burial.

    "Showing dead and deformed bodies on TV is not acceptable," said Amer Ahmed al-Azawi, a 55-year-old Baghdad merchant. "But the Americans are criminals and unbelievers. We got rid of one tyrant and we ended up with a bigger one."

    Hamza Mansour, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front in neighboring Jordan, said the display violated Islamic custom.

    "The bodies of Odai and Qusai should have been washed, shrouded and buried immediately, but the Americans have no respect for our traditions and doctrine and they acted in a very unethical manner," he said.

    The White House defended the decision to display the bodies to reporters and a TV camera. Spokesman Scott McClellan said it was necessary to assure Iraqis that a brutal regime is gone. He said there's a "huge difference" between this and the display of soldiers' bodies for propaganda purposes, which is barred by the rules of war.

    And Baghdad erupted in celebratory gunfire after news of the brothers' death was reported. The Al-Mutamar newspaper reported Saturday that the bullets falling to the ground killed 31 Iraqis and injured 76 others, though the report could not be confirmed.

    Results of the DNA testing on the bodies of Odai and Qusai at a military lab in Washington could be completed by next week. A final report on the deaths is expected in about six weeks, medical personnel said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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