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Explosion Aboard Gulf-Based Navy Ship Injures 11

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Explosion aboard Gulf-based Navy ship injures 11

NORFOLK, Va. (May 8, 2003 12:35 p.m. EDT) - Eleven Marines were injured by an explosion in a trash receptacle aboard the USS Saipan in the Persian Gulf, the Navy said Thursday.

The explosion occurred late Wednesday in a sleeping area, piercing a bulkhead and injuring people in the adjacent compartment. The cause was being investigated.

One Marine was taken to an Army field hospital in Kuwait with a serious arm wound and was in stable condition, the Navy said. The rest were being treated aboard the ship, and the injuries were not life-threatening, according to the Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

The Marines are part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and were deployed to the Gulf in support of the ongoing war on terrorism and the American-led war in Iraq. The Saipan, an amphibious assault ship, deployed from Norfolk Naval Station on Jan. 6.

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Two U.S. soldiers killed in Baghdad attacks

By CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq (May 8, 2003 3:51 p.m. EDT) - Two American soldiers were killed Thursday in separate attacks in Baghdad - one a bold daylight shooting at close range and the other a sniper attack, military officials said.

In addition, at least one soldier was injured when a U.S. vehicle hit an explosive in part of the capital believed to have been cleared of land mines.

The incidents demonstrate Iraq is still fraught with danger for U.S. forces a month after Saddam Hussein's government fell.

In the most brazen attack, an unidentified Iraqi walked up to a soldier on a bridge and opened fire with a pistol at close range, according to senior U.S. Army officers in Baghdad who had heard reports of the shooting.

The officers said the slain soldier, whom they did not identify, belonged to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La. Calls to that regiment's public affairs officer here went unanswered Thursday night.

No further information was immediately available, and it was unclear what happened to the assailant. U.S. Central Command in Qatar said it was unaware of the incident.

U.S. forces say they trade fire with armed Iraqis almost daily across the country. Still, an incident like the one on the bridge is highly unusual even in postwar Iraq.

In the second attack, a U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division soldier was killed when a sniper shot him in the head in east Baghdad, said Capt. Tom Bryant, spokesman for the Army's V Corps, which is based at Baghdad's airport. He had no further details.

Also Thursday, an American Humvee hit a "probable land mine" while crossing a median in a road near Baghdad's airport, Bryant said. Details were sketchy, but at least one U.S. soldier was injured in that incident.

Earlier, Bryant said, a group of children motioned to a military convoy traveling down another road about a quarter-mile away to avoid a plastic bag in the street. The convoy followed their advice, but an Iraqi truck coming up behind the convoy ran over the bag and it exploded.

The driver of the truck escaped injury, but an Iraqi man standing nearby suffered burn and shrapnel wounds. He was taken to a U.S. field hospital and was reported in shock.

Other incidents have bedeviled U.S. forces in recent days, though none cause casualties.

On Wednesday, the military said, two Iraqis shot at reconnaissance elements of the 3rd Infantry Division with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades as they traveled north of Baghdad. The unit returned fire, the military said, killing one assailant.

Also Wednesday, near the northern town of Baiji, a convoy from the 4th Infantry Division came under rifle and machine-gun fire. The unit attacked the assailants' positions and captured five suspects and their weapons, Central Command said. No Americans were injured.

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Burned Iraqi girl brought to U.S. for treatment

The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (May 8, 2003 11:38 a.m. EDT) - A 15-year-old Iraqi girl who was severely burned during coalition bombing was brought to the United States for treatment in an effort that started with a train conductor who saw her on television.

Hannan Shihab, who arrived in Michigan on Tuesday, is believed to be the first Iraqi child injured during the war to receive care at a U.S. hospital, according to the University of Michigan and the office of a congressman who helped get her here.

She was listed in stable condition after she was examined Wednesday at the university hospitals' burn center, said Dr. Paul Taheri, the center's division chief.

Hannan was injured after a kerosene lamp near her bed overturned during a bombing raid in March.

Second- and third-degree burns cover 20 percent of the girl's body, including her face, hands, chest and legs, Taheri said. He said she will have to undergo numerous surgeries over about six weeks, plus months of rehabilitation.

Journalists from Britain's Independent Television News found her April 14, swathed in dirty bandages and sobbing in pain outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. They took her to one of the city's few functioning hospitals.

"ITN is not an aid organization, but we had to help her," said ITN's Tim Rogers, who accompanied Hannan to Detroit. "We took her fresh bandages and ointment, but there was nothing more we could do."

Among those seeing the ITN story relayed on CNN was the 54-year-old train conductor, James Thornberry.

"I kind of put myself in their place," Thornberry said. "How would I feel if my daughters had suffered those kinds of horrific injuries and I couldn't secure the help for them that they needed?"

He called the burn center and within hours, it agreed to treat her for free, he said.

"Once the University of Michigan said yes, I knew it was something that was supposed to happen and the other obstacles would be overcome," he said.

Through ITN and CNN, he located the girl and her family.

Rep. Mike Rogers spoke to the Defense Department and immigration officials and got her on military flights from Iraq to Germany. And Northwest Airlines donated two first-class, round-trip tickets to take the girl and her mother from Germany to Detroit.

Tim Rogers sat next to the girl on the plane. She knows some English but could not talk much because her lips are bloated from the burns, he said.

"She says thank you with her eyes," he said.

Said Thornberry, a father of four: "I am very saddened that you can't conduct a war without innocent people getting hurt. I guess this is my way of doing something."

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Iraqi child killed in accident with U.S. Army vehicle

The Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar (May 7, 2003 8:55 p.m. EDT) - An 8-year-old Iraqi boy was struck and killed by a U.S. Army vehicle in an accident in the northern Iraqi town of Tikrit, the U.S. Central Command said Wednesday.

The victim was standing Tuesday afternoon with a group of children watching a convoy pass by when he suddenly jumped in front of the vehicle to pick up something, the command said in a statement.

The driver of the vehicle, who was not identified, was unable to take evasive action because of oncoming traffic, the statement added.

Soldiers rendered first aid and took the boy and his brother to a U.S. field hospital where the victim died, the statement said.

Tikrit is the hometown of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and is considered among the most tense areas of the country due to residual support for the old regime.

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Hundreds of artifacts from Iraqi National Museum said recovered

By JONATHAN D. SALANT, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2003 8:03 p.m. EDT) - U.S. authorities have recovered almost 40,000 manuscripts and 700 artifacts that were missing from the National Museum in Baghdad, officials said Wednesday.

The recoveries include a clay pot dating to 5000 B.C. and an inscribed cornerstone from King Nebuchadnezzar's 7th-century B.C. Babylon palace. One person returned a box of manuscripts and parchments. Another Iraqi brought back 46 antiquities, including a vase he claimed was 7,000 years old.

U.S. customs agents tracked down another 10 pieces, including a broken statue of an Assyrian king dating back to the 9th century B.C.

As Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, looters pillaged the Iraqi National Museum, which had housed one of the Middle East's leading archaeological collections. U.S. officials said many items originally thought looted had actually been placed in hidden vaults for protection before the Iraq war began, and other items were returned once agents talked of amnesty and potential rewards.

Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, now part of the new Homeland Security Department, and U.S. military forces have been working with museum curators and employees to develop a list of missing items, and to prevent additional looting.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said immigration and customs agents in Iraq are helping to investigate money laundering and smuggling in addition to trying to track down the looted artifacts.

At least 38 major, high-value artifacts are missing from the main gallery, officials have said. But some experts say thousands of artifacts, including priceless antiquities, may be missing and could have been taken out of the country. Museum curators last month urged the United States to secure Iraq's borders to prevent the looted items from being taken out of the country.

Attorney General John Ashcroft suggested earlier this week at a conference of Interpol, the international police organization, that the looters included criminals who knew what they were looking for.

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Rice warns Syria on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction

The Associated Press

MADRID, Spain (May 7, 2003 7:35 p.m. EDT) - The United States would be forced to act if it discovered that Damascus allowed Iraq to hide weapons of mass destruction in Syria during the war, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview published Wednesday.

Rice said she was sure Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - the main reason cited by the United States for invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein - would turn up eventually.

But she said it was possible some had been removed from Iraq before the fighting concluded last month.

"We have assurances from the Syrians that nothing crossed their borders. Time will tell," Rice said in the interviews given Tuesday in Washington to El Pais and three other Spanish dailies.

But if that assurance turned out to be false, it would create a very serious situation and the international community would be forced to act, Rice said, according to El Pais.

Pressed as to whether this meant another war, Rice simply repeated that the international community would be forced to act.

During the war in Iraq the United States accused Syria of granting haven to fleeing officials of Saddam's regime and developing its own weapons of mass destruction. The allegations triggered fears of another U.S.-led conflict even before the smoke cleared in Iraq.

The Syrian ambassador to Spain, Mohsen Bilal, denied the Syria had provided a haven to Iraqi officials or possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"We have no fear and no secrets," Bilal told journalists Wednesday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell met in Damascus Saturday with Syrian President Bashar Assad to discuss weapons of mass destruction and U.S. plans for the Middle East in the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

During the meeting, Powell said he discussed the offices radical Palestinian groups - labeled terrorist organizations by the United States - run in the Syrian capital.

In Damascus, the leader of a radical Palestinian group confirmed Wednesday he is ready to shut offices in there to ease U.S. pressure on Syria but said Syrian officials had made no such demand.

Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, however, hinted that the Syrians might be ready to make a request soon.

The group "is ready to meet the Syrian demands if such demands are useful for Syrian policy," Jibril told reporters in Damascus.

Powell said on Sunday that the Bush administration and Congress are monitoring Syria's moves.

"There are no illusions in his (Assad's) mind as to what we are looking for from Syria," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"There was, as we put it in diplomatic terms, a candid exchange of views, but it is not promises that we are interested in, or assurances, but it is action. We will see what happens in the days, weeks, months ahead."

A key question involving Iraq, Powell said, is whether Syria will keep its eastern border closed, and track down and surrender any Iraqi suspects who might cross it to escape prosecution.

Bilal, the Syrian envoy, said the "road map" to Middle East peace should go beyond the dispute between the Palestinians and Israel. The plan was put forward by the United Nations, the United States, European Union and Russia.

Lasting peace depends on a "total retreat" by Israel from the territories it seized in the 1967 war, Bilal said, noting that Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in that war.

Bilal said Assad told Powell that for Syria to support the road map, the return of the Golan Heights would have to be added to the plan.

Powell is expected to travel to Israel and several other Middle East countries next weekend in an attempt to sell the "road map," which aims to establish a Palestinian state by 2005.

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