A U.S. soldier was fatally wounded and two others were hurt in a blast near the flashpoint Iraqi town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday. It was the second confirmed death of a U.S. soldier in about 24 hours as Iraqi rebels stepped up their resistance to a massive counteroffensive the U.S.-led coalition launched last month.
The soldiers were in a convoy when the attack occurred about 6:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. Thursday ET), and one of them died of his wounds in a hospital, the military said in a statement. No other details were immediately available.
Earlier in the day, another soldier died and 14 others were wounded when three suicide bombers attacked the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division west of Baghdad.
Friday, shortly after midnight, rebels fired a salvo of mortar shells at coalition headquarters in the first attack against the U.S. seat of power since U.S. forces mounted "Operation Iron Hammer" in Baghdad last month to prevent strikes against the coalition's military and civilian targets.
Nobody was injured, and only light damage was reported to a building in the so-called Green Zone, the downtown area housing the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition, a military spokesman said. But the mortar barrage directly on the coalition headquarters marked the emergence of a dangerous new threat from the Iraqi resistance.
"I heard what appeared to be incoming mortar rounds," Charles Krohn, a U.S. defense spokesman, said by telephone from his room inside the Green Zone. "I was shaken, and I heard a couple of thumps. I felt the vibrations."
The suicide bombing of the 82nd Airborne headquarters hours earlier also confirmed that the pace of attacks was quickening. The three bombers drove up to the gates of the Army base in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, in a furniture truck and blew themselves up in the third suicide attack on U.S. troops in Iraq just this week.
The region around Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah, one of the most dangerous for coalition troops, sits in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where the majority of U.S. deaths in hostile action have occurred since President Bush declared an end to major fighting May 1.
In other developments Friday:
- Time magazine senior correspondent Michael Weisskopf was credited with saving the lives of a colleague and two U.S. soldiers this week when he attempted to toss a hand grenade from the vehicle they were riding in before it exploded.
The blast blew off Weisskopf's right hand, according to one account, and slightly injured Time contributing photographer James Nachtwey and the two soldiers, the military and the magazine said.
Weisskopf was taken to a military aid station Wednesday in Baghdad and later to a hospital in the city, where he underwent surgery. A statement released by Time said he was in stable condition.
"He picked [the grenade] up not knowing exactly what it was, but he knew he had to get rid of it quickly," said Judith Katz, Weisskopf's wife, who spoke with her husband Thursday. "I don't know what went through into his mind, but that's what he was doing."
- A bomb made from a land mine exploded on the outskirts of the southern city of Mahaweel as a 19-man Polish convoy drove by Friday, wounding two soldiers, one of them seriously, a Polish military spokesman told Poland's TVN24 television.
- The U.S. military said a soldier from the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad died early Friday of a "non-hostile gunshot wound." There were no further details, and an investigation was under way.