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Ambush in Ramadi leaves 4 U.S. soldiers dead

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Four U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in an ambush in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad in the Sunni Muslim-dominated region of the country.

Video footage from Ramadi showed four dead American soldiers sprawled in the dirt after apparently being attacked and shot to death Monday morning. Their flak vests and helmets were missing, and their bodies looked to be near a concrete barrier of some sort.

Also, a U.S. military official said Monday that a house U.S. forces destroyed in Fallujah on Saturday had sheltered foreign fighters and that leaders of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ring, which has been blamed for many of the suicide attacks in Iraq, were among the dead. At least 19 were killed in the attack.

"These were key personnel in the Zarqawi network operating inside Fallujah with the capability to strike civilians and coalition forces throughout Iraq," military spokesman Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt said.

The South Korean government vowed Monday to proceed with plans to send 3,000 more troops to Iraq despite a threat by militants to cut off the head of a South Korean hostage, who begged for his life in a videotape.

Kim Sun-il is thought to be held by Jamaat al Tawhid wa'l-Jihad, a group led by al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq. In the broadcast on the Arab satellite news channel al Jazeera, Kim, a civilian contractor who works in Baghdad, pleaded with South Korean politicians to pull their troops out of Iraq.

Three masked gunmen stood behind Kim, and one of them promised the South Korean government that if it stood behind its decision to send the additional 3,000 soldiers, it could expect to receive Kim's decapitated head.

After American Nicholas Berg was beheaded last month, in a video posted on the Internet, CIA officials determined that the executioner probably was al-Zarqawi.

There was speculation Monday that the group might be holding nine or 10 other people now, possibly including an American, but military officials wouldn't say if more hostages were involved.

"We're developing that intelligence about where (Kim) was captured, under what circumstances he was captured, but I'm just not sure that we have built that body of intelligence yet," Kimmitt said.

Many Iraqis, even those sympathetic to the attacks on U.S. soldiers, are disturbed by the murders of civilians.

"I believe someone should pay for this American aggression against the Iraqis," said Ali Mohammed, a taxi driver near downtown Baghdad. "Their countries should pay for this. Unfortunately, the innocents are paying."

Elsewhere, a spate of attacks continued on Iraqi officials and those working with the government:

_A convoy of Iraqi contractors was hit Monday by a roadside bomb and small arms fire outside the northern town of Mosul, killing four and wounding three.

_In Tikrit, also in the north, an American patrol discovered the body of a member of the province's governing council. He apparently had been killed.

_On Sunday, a neighborhood district council vice chairman in Baghdad was shot to death, and the chairman, traveling with him, was in intensive care after receiving multiple bullet wounds, Kimmit said.

_Also Sunday, near the town of Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, 50 gunmen wearing black masks stormed a police station and blew it up.

Meeting with a U.S. congressional delegation in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer was asked what he thought the June 30 return of sovereignty would bring.

"Probably there will be some turbulence," he said. "We are expecting the forces of the darkness, as we call them, will try to deter our movement."


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.