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Two U.S. Soldiers Shot, Killed In Iraq as Looting Continues

By Charles A. Radin and Patrick Healy

The Boston Globe -- BAGHDAD

Two U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday in separate attacks in the Iraqi capital, one shot at close range as he sat in an Army vehicle and the other hit by a sniper, military officials said.

The killings were a reminder of the perils that coalition forces face in Iraq a month after toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime.

General Tommy R. Franks, the commander of the U.S.-led invasion, said he expected “rough behavior” in the country for the foreseeable future. “We will be up to it, and our people will continue to do their jobs,” Franks said in Washington.

In Baghdad, leaders of the American occupation asserted that they were making progress toward improving security and living conditions throughout the country. In another step toward normalcy, criminal courts in the capital reopened for the first time since the conflict ended.

Military leaders acknowledged that looting is still a problem. Gunfire shakes the capital nightly, and plumes of smoke rising from fires amid the ruins are a regular feature of the daytime sky. Civilian discontent with the disorder is widespread.

Lieutenant General David McKiernan, the US military commander in Iraq, said at a press conference at the Baghdad Convention Center that “restoration of order and security on the streets and neighborhoods across Iraq will come, but it will not come overnight.”

He said that coalition forces are focusing on searching for weapons of mass destruction, responding to civilian complaints, delivering fuel to gas stations, and identifying and securing mass graves.

“There is still crime,” he said. “There is still looting. There is still a huge percentage of ex-military Iraqis who need to be put back to work.”

But he said that as a result of coalition efforts, Iraqi paramilitary activity is down; electricity, water, and food are increasingly available; more than 10,000 police are back at work; many schools have reopened; some rail lines are operating, and local governments are being formed in the cities of Basra and Tikrit.

But McKiernan acknowledged that security remains a problem in a nation that is about the size of California. “Could you secure all of California all the time with 150,000 soldiers? The answer is no.” he said.

No information was available Thursday night on the identities of the slain Americans.

In one incident, a U.S. soldier said, a man walked up to a military vehicle on a bridge, pulled out a gun, and shot the victim in the head.

The soldier, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that many Iraqis had approached the Americans at the scene trying to sell them things. “We can’t tell who is a vendor and who isn’t,” the soldier said.

U.S. soldiers said that an arrest had been made in connection with the killing, but they were not clear whether the person arrested was the suspected killer. Low-flying helicopters continued to comb the area long after the incident.

In the second attack, a U.S. soldier was killed when a sniper shot him in the head in east Baghdad, Captain Tom Bryant, spokesman for the Army’s Fifth Corps, which is based at Baghdad’s airport, told the Associated Press. He had no further details.