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Sunday, March 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
WASHINGTON After a marked decline in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq in February, the toll is again escalating.
This month 39 U.S. troops have died, according to the Pentagon's count.
Mid-March saw the heaviest death toll for any 10-day period since November. Pentagon records say 24 American troops died in the March 13-22 period.
The death toll has followed an irregular pattern during the course of the war. The lowest monthly total was February's 21; the highest was November's 82.
March's toll could rise if Iraqis in Fallujah follow through on their threats to attack U.S. Marines who recently took over patrol duty in the city west of Baghdad.
An hours-long shootout Friday left one Marine dead and an Iraqi death-toll estimate that ranged from seven to 20, depending on the source. Residents said some civilians were killed in what they called a reprisal attack by Marines after an insurgent strike on a supply convoy destroyed a Humvee with a rocket-propelled grenade.
"For each one who is killed, we will get 10 American soldiers," said Abu Mujahid, 35, taunting the fresh Marine forces as "cartoon characters."
"If they want Fallujah to be a battlefield, they are welcome here," he said. "Fallujah city will become a mass grave for Bush and all the soldiers of the American military."
Bremer establishes agency on media independence
BAGHDAD, Iraq L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator, has set up a regulatory body to run Iraq's burgeoning telecoms and media sector, encourage investment and deter government meddling after the June 30 handover of governance.
Board members, likely to be lawyers or other professionals, will be named by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and must have no conflicts of interest or involvement in politics.
However, Hamid al-Bayati, a senior official in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, a Shiite organization, said appointing such bodies should be left to Iraqis and not imposed on them from outside.
"We have to give the people a chance and trust them with the democracy they are building," he said.
Attack on Mosul city hall kills 2 Iraqis, wounds 13
BAGHDAD, Iraq Insurgents fired rockets at the city hall building in Mosul yesterday, killing two people and wounding 13, in another deadly attack on Iraqis working with U.S.-led occupation forces.
Col. Shamil Ahmad, head of the city hall police department, said at least three attackers launched two rockets, which hit the outer blast walls protecting the building.
Attacks in Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, have killed several people this month, including four U.S. aid workers shot dead in their car.
In another incident in the city yesterday, police fought a shootout with a criminal gang that had stolen $44,000 intended to pay government salaries. A policeman and a robber were killed, and two gang members captured, police said.
Child dies, 7 people wounded as GIs fire on civilian car
TIKRIT, Iraq U.S. forces fired on a civilian car Friday night in Tikrit, killing a 3-year-old boy and wounding six women and children as well as their male driver, Iraqi police and relatives said yesterday.
"There was a family; four children, three women and their driver," an Iraqi police major said. "The U.S. forces fired on them and all of them were injured. One child was killed."
Tikrit military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien said he knew of no children being killed, but confirmed that a patrol "engaged a civilian vehicle that refused to stop at a checkpoint."
O'Brien said four Iraqi civilians were injured.
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