Three U.S. troops were killed on Sunday in one of the deadliest 12-hour periods since President Bush declared major combat to be over in Iraq. First an American soldier was shot dead in the head at point blank range while visiting Baghdad University shortly after noon. Nine hours later, a member of the First Armored Division was killed while chasing two Iraqis. A few hours after that, a third soldier died after explosives hit his truck.
The shootings came a day after seven Iraqi police recruits were killed and 70 more people were injured when a bomb exploded near the graduation ceremony of the first class of the new U.S. trained Iraqi police force.
The attacks come at a time when the morale of the troops and their families back home appear to be at a new low. The New York Times reports that in Fort Stewart, Georgia, a colonel recently had to be escorted out by security after meeting with 800 seething spouses, most of them wives. One official at Fort Stewart told the Times, “They were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for their men to come back.” Meanwhile a headline in today’s Christian Science Monitor reads “Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'” The paper quotes letters written by soldiers to their elected representatives in Washington. One read: “Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane ticket home.” Another read: “Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I’ve seen has hit rock bottom.”
Also on Saturday a British journalist was shot dead in Baghdad. The Mirror of London reports the cameraman, 24-year-old Richard Wild, was likely killed because he was mistaken to be a soldier. He had arrived in Baghdad two weeks ago and was supplying footage to ITN and other British networks.
And yesterday Jeremy Little, an Australian NBC News sound engineer, died at a military hospital in Germany. He was injured on June 29 when Iraqis fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the military vehicle in which he was riding.
At least 16 journalists have now died since the U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20.
This news from Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. has announced plans to try six foreign-born men captured in Afghanistan by secret military tribunal. Among the six include two Britons and an Australian.
The men will be given a choice of pleading guilty or going before a secret tribunal. Those who plead guilty will get 20 years in prison. Those found guilty by the military tribunal will be executed. The London Observer described the choice as “confess or die.”
Britain is urging Washington to repatriate its two citizens. The lawyers for the men 35-year-old Moazzam Begg and 23-year-old Feroz Abassi said the U.S. violated international law by denying the men access to counsel during the last 18 months.
A representative of Fair Trials Abroad criticized the move toward secret tribunals saying “The US Defense Department has set itself up as prosecution, judge and Defense counsel and has created the rules of trial. This is patently a kangaroo court.” Amnesty International said, “Any trial before these military commissions would be a travesty of justice.”
Liberian President Charles Taylor said yesterday he would step down and accept asylum in Nigeria. Taylor urged the U.S. to send peacekeepers to ensure a “orderly” exit from the capital city Monrovia, which is surrounded by rebel forces.
Taylor gave no timeframe for when he would quit power and did not specify whether the deployment of US troops was a condition for his departure. We?ll have more on this in a few minutes.
President Bush today leaves for a five-day tour of the African countries of Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria. Among other things, Bush is seeking to secure deals that will allow U.S. fighter planes to refuel inside Uganda and Senegal.
One thing Bush will not be doing is meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela. The London Independent reports that Bush will become the first head of state not to ask for a meeting with Mandela while on a visit to South Africa.
Mandela was a fierce critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Pentagon is vastly expanding its nuclear war planning. Classified and unclassified reports obtained by the paper show the U.S. is increasing the number of “threat countries” that could be a target as well as expanding the types of targets. New software would allow the President to prepare for a nuclear attack quicker, and wireless communications networks are being developed to withstand a nuclear apocalypse.
This news from Peru: Police say they have announced the capture of one of the key leaders of the guerilla opposition group, the Shining Path. The man Florentino Cerron Cardoso was detained on Saturday.
Israel has agreed to release about 350 of the 5,000 Palestinians currently in jail, many of whom have never been charged with a crime. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened yesterday to revoke the cease-fire because so many Palestinians remain in prison.
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