Insurgents kill 3 US soldiers, Iraqi civilian
Philippines rejects pullout ultimatum
BAGHDAD -- Insurgents ambushed two US military patrols north of Baghdad yesterday, separate attacks that killed three US soldiers and an Iraqi civilian.
Meanwhile, the Philippine government rejected an insurgent group's ultimatum to pull its small peacekeeping force out of Iraq. The group has threatened to kill a Filipino man it is holding hostage.
A roadside bomb attack on a US patrol in the city of Samarra, a hotbed of violence 60 miles north of Baghdad, killed two soldiers on patrol yesterday afternoon and wounded three others, the military said.
An earlier attack on a US convoy in Beiji, 90 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, began yesterday morning when a roadside bomb exploded next to the patrol, the military said.
An enemy vehicle then raced toward the convoy, firing at the soldiers, who shot back and killed the driver, the military said.
A civilian traveling behind the patrol and a soldier were killed. A second soldier was injured and evacuated. Thick black smoke poured over the area from an oil tanker set ablaze in the attack.
The deaths occurred a day after four US Marines were killed in a vehicle accident near Camp Fallujah in western Iraq. More than 875 service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.
Militants from a group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq -- Khaled bin Al-Waleed Brigade had given the Philippines until last night to agree to withdraw its 51-member peacekeeping force by July 20, a month ahead of schedule. The group threatened to kill truck driver Angelo dela Cruz if the Philippines did not comply.
The group extended the deadline by two days, until tomorrow, Philippine government officials said early today, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The extension came hours after the government in Manila rejected the militants' ultimatum.
"In line with our commitment to the free people of Iraq, we reiterate our plan to return our humanitarian contingent as scheduled on Aug. 20, 2004," Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said.
Dela Cruz's wife and brother were heading to Baghdad, Albert said, and the government remained hopeful he would be released. Philippine negotiators were working through mediators yesterday to try to free dela Cruz, a diplomat in Baghdad said.
In a video purportedly from the militants broadcast yesterday on the Arab television station Al-Arabiya, a masked man holding a sword said that if the Philippines acquiesces to their demand, dela Cruz would no longer be a hostage; he would be held as a protected prisoner of war. After Filipino troops leave, he would be released, the man said.
A deadline for two other hostages, Bulgarian truck drivers held by a separate group demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees, expired Saturday morning. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi of Bulgaria said yesterday that he had unconfirmed information they were alive. At a news conference in Bulgaria, Pasi appealed to the hostage takers, saying Islam calls for "mercy for the poor, the hungry, and the sick." He said one hostage, Georgi Lazov, had diabetes, while the other, Ivaylo Kepov, had suffered a stroke.
The group holding the Bulgarians, the Tawhid and Jihad movement linked to Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also claimed responsibility yesterday for the attack Thursday on a military headquarters in Samarra that killed five US soldiers and an Iraqi National Guardsman.
To prevent the infiltration of foreign fighters, Syria and Iraq agreed to set up a special force to patrol their 360-mile shared border, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh of Iraq said yesterday in Damascus after meeting with President Bashar Assad of Syria.
In other developments, Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said yesterday that the country would never again threaten its neighbors and would honor the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as well as international agreements banning the use of chemical and biological weapons.