BAGHDAD, Iraq—Iraqi militants killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded 10 in three separate ambushes Wednesday in Iraq, as the top American commander for the country said dental records and four senior aides to deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had confirmed that Saddam's sons were killed in a fierce shoot-out with U.S. troops the day before.
The fresh wave of attacks—including two in the northern town of Mosul, where American troops killed Odai and Qusai Hussein on Tuesday—diminished hopes that the deaths of Saddam's sons would quickly break the back of an insurgency that's picking away at U.S. forces in a steady campaign of attrition almost three months after President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over.
But despite the attacks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said the deaths of Saddam's sons "are definitely going to be a turning point for the coalition in the subversive resistance we are encountering."
He pointed to the detention Wednesday of Barzan Abd al Ghafur Sulayman Majid al Tikriti, a Special Republican Guard commander who was No. 11 on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis, as further proof that coalition efforts were succeeding in Iraq. Of the 55, U.S. and British troops have killed or captured 37.
"It confirms that we will succeed in our hunt for former regime members, and in particular Saddam Hussein, wherever they are and however long it takes," Sanchez said.
Saddam's sons were No. 2 and No. 3 on the list. Each had a $15 million price tag on his head.
Many Iraqis remained skeptical that Saddam's sons could have been killed in the four-hour assault on a villa in an affluent neighborhood, and Sanchez hinted that photos of their bodies might be released as proof.
In Washington late Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States soon would release photos of the bodies to prove that the sons were dead. Speaking on Capitol Hill after he had briefed members of Congress, Rumsfeld said he hadn't yet decided when the photos would be released. "I said soon," he said.
Also Wednesday, an audiotape that Saddam purportedly recorded Sunday aired on al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television station that broadcast a similar tape last week. This time, the male voice said he was pained by Iraqis who cooperated with Americans and urged them instead to "sacrifice yourself for our dear country" by attacking U.S. and British forces.
In Baghdad, many residents dismissed the tape as just another tedious lecture from a man whose hours-long speeches filled Iraqi airwaves for the past 30 years.
"It's silly," said Ali Kadem, a 34-year-old computer programmer. "It's old now. He's gone and we don't want him back. When he had the power, he didn't do anything, so why should we listen to him now that he's powerless?"
Iraqi guerrillas killed one U.S. soldier and wounded seven others early Wednesday by detonating a remote-controlled roadside bomb as the soldiers were on their way to a training range near Mosul. All were members of the 101st Airborne's 2nd Brigade, said Col. Joe Anderson, the brigade's commander.
Wednesday afternoon, militants exploded a similar device as two military Humvees passed through a neighborhood several miles from where the Hussein brothers were killed. A taxi near the Humvees took the brunt of the explosion, said a military police officer on the scene, who asked not to be identified. Its Iraqi driver was unhurt. A U.S. soldier in one military vehicle was wounded, but not critically, the military police officer said.
In another ambush, a soldier with the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment was killed and two other U.S. personnel, including a contractor, were wounded when their convoy was hit by an explosive device near the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The town is in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," from which Saddam drew most of his support from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority and where most attacks on American troops have occurred.
Gunmen also attacked a Red Crescent vehicle Wednesday, killing one aid worker and injuring another, Sanchez said at a news conference in Baghdad. Red Crescent is the Muslim counterpart to the Red Cross.
The latest deaths bring to 155 the number of U.S. service members who have been killed in Iraq since the war began March 19. Forty American troops have been killed by hostile fire since Bush declared major combat operations over May 1.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Iraq
GRAPHICS (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): file 20030723, Iraq most wanted