Roadside bombs kill U.S. soldier, police


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A U.S. soldier and three Iraqi policemen were killed yesterday in two roadside bomb attacks in Baghdad, while Iraqi and U.S. forces in the snow-covered mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan searched for a missing plane that was carrying five German businessmen.

The soldier was killed when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in eastern Baghdad at 8 a.m., the U.S. military said.

A half-hour later, the Iraqi policemen died when a bomb detonated near their patrol along the Muhammad al-Qassim highway in Baghdad. Three other officers were injured in the attack.

At least 2,273 U.S. troops have died in the war, according to an Associated Press count. Roadside bombs continue to be the most prolific killer of troops in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi bomb squads have tried to improve their ability to spot and disarm the bombs, but insurgents counter with even deadlier techniques.

Officials in Basra, the southern port city, said two Macedonian contractors working there had been abducted. Attacks on foreign troops and security contractors in the south, under the control of the British military, have been on the rise for much of the past year.

This month, crowds demonstrated in the streets and the provincial council severed ties with the British military after a newspaper released a video of British troops beating young unarmed Iraqi protesters in Amara in January 2004.

On Friday, the Iranian foreign minister called for British troops to withdraw from the south, saying their presence was destabilizing the situation there. Iranian-backed Shiite political parties have enormous influence throughout much of southern Iraq, and posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, are plastered on the sides of government buildings in Basra.

The organization of Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric, has the support of powerful Iranians and is considered the most unpredictable and anti-U.S. political group in the south.

The British government has vowed an investigation into the beating incident and has announced the arrests of three people.

Iraqi officials in the north said they were continuing their search for a small plane carrying German businessmen and an Iraqi that is believed to have gone down Thursday in the remote peaks of Sulaimaniyah province.

Officials in Germany confirmed that five businessmen working for a Bavarian company had been missing since Thursday and that an Iraqi man was aboard their plane. The German officials declined to release the name of the Bavarian company.

The Iraqi officials said the U.S. military was helping with the search because helicopters or other aircraft were needed to scour the Kurdish mountains.

News agencies reported that the businessmen were in a twin-engine Cessna jet. The plane left Munich last week and stopped in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was en route to Sulaimaniyah, the eastern capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, when it crashed in the mountains to the city's north.

A colonel of the Iraqi border patrol in the region said that the plane might have crashed in Iran, right across the border in the mountains, Agence France-Presse reported.

In Baghdad, police discovered two unidentified bodies in two separate districts, an Interior Ministry official said. One was found in Sunni-dominated Ghazaliya, while another was discovered in a sewage treatment plant in Rustumiya. Each had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head.

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