U.S. troops continue the search for missing American soldiers

BAGHDAD, Iraq—An explosion by a mortar or rocket wounded five U.S. Embassy contractors Tuesday in the heavily fortified Green Zone, fueling concerns that the area is no longer a haven from Iraq's chaos.

The attack came while American-led forces continued to search for three soldiers who've been missing since their two-Humvee patrol was ambushed Saturday in a violent area south of Baghdad. U.S. officials said American forces had seized several suspected insurgents but had found no trace of the missing men.

Three rounds, at least one of which was a 122 mm rocket, landed just before 4 p.m. in the Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy, American military headquarters and most central Iraqi government offices. Three rounds also struck just outside the protected area, causing no injuries.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the injuries weren't life-threatening and that the embassy hadn't yet confirmed the nationalities of the wounded contractors.

He declined to say precisely where the contractors were when they were hit, fearing such information would aid in future attacks.

A similar explosion shook the compound Monday but yielded no injuries.

"We are constantly assessing the security situation and adjust our tactics and posture as appropriate," U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said. Activities at the embassy continued without interruption Tuesday, he said.

McClatchy Newspapers reported this week that unease is growing among career State Department employees in Baghdad over what many fear is inadequate security in the Green Zone, a 4-square-mile sector in downtown Baghdad where access is strictly limited and that until recently had a reputation for being relatively secure.

Attacks in the Green Zone have been increasing since the U.S. kicked off a buildup of American forces in the capital in an effort to stanch sectarian violence. In March, two U.S. contractors died in a mortar attack. In April, a suicide bomber killed a lawmaker in Iraq's parliament building. Earlier this month, rocket fire killed four Asian contractors working for the embassy.

Since then, embassy workers have demanded better protection from such strikes, including hardening the roofs of the temporary structures where most of them sleep.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said it had interviewed 450 people and received 55 tips from civilians in the area near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, where three American soldiers had disappeared.

The searches led to the detentions of 11 people, including four whom spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said were high-value targets, "someone we especially wanted to talk to." He wouldn't say whether the U.S. military had sought any of those detained before the killings Saturday.

"We are continuing our search hoping for the best possible outcome," Garver said. "We have not seen intelligence indicators that would indicate any other outcome at this time, so we will continue on the assumption that they are alive."

Four other soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed when they were ambushed as they set up an observation post about 12 miles west of Mahmoudiya to watch for insurgents planting roadside bombs.

The Pentagon listed four U.S. soldiers as missing late Tuesday: Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev.; Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif.; and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. The Pentagon believes one of the four is among the dead, but could not say which one.

Violence continued elsewhere. In Diyala province, a suicide bomber struck a marketplace in Abu Saida, killing 12 people and injuring almost two dozen more. In Baghdad, two bombs killed five people and injured at least 15 near al Tayaran square, an area of bus stations and shops.


(McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent Mohammed al Dulaimy contributed to this report.)