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Iraq-Jordan Dispute Deepens

Diplomats Recalled in Aftermath of Suicide Bombing

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page A10

BAGHDAD, March 20 -- Iraq and Jordan recalled their top diplomats from Amman and Baghdad Sunday in a deepening dispute over the alleged involvement of a Jordanian citizen in a suicide bombing last month.

The diplomatic moves came on a day when a U.S. soldier was killed and three were injured by a bomb as they patrolled near the northern oil city of Kirkuk, U.S. military officials said. Hours later, 24 insurgents were killed and seven were wounded when they attacked a U.S. military convoy on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, injuring six American soldiers, the officials added.

Iraq War Deaths

Total number of U.S. military deaths and names of the U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war as announced by the Pentagon recently:

1,513 Fatalities

In hostile actions: 1,158

In non-hostile actions: 355

Spec. Paul M. Heltzel, 39, of Baton Rouge, La.; Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, based in Eunice, La. Killed March 15 in Baghdad.

Staff Sgt. Ricky A. Kieffer, 36, of Ovid, Mich.; Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery Regiment (Multiple Launch Rocket System), based in Detroit. Killed March 15 in Baghdad.

Spec. Rocky D. Payne, 26, of Howell, Utah; Army 497th Transportation Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, 1st Corps Support Command, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. Killed March 16.

All troops were killed in action unless otherwise indicated.

Total fatalities include four civilian employees of the Defense Department.

A full list of casualties is available online at www.washingtonpost.com/nation

SOURCE: Defense Department's www.defenselink.mil/newsThe Washington Post

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The recall of the envoys came as Iraqi anger grew over a recent report in the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad that Raed Mansour Banna had carried out the Feb. 28 suicide bombing in Hilla in which 125 people died, one of the deadliest single attacks since the U.S.-led invasion. The report said Banna's family had honored him as a heroic martyr during his funeral.

The man's father disputed the accuracy of the report and said he did not know whether his son had been the bomber in Hilla. But that has not mollified Iraqis, who live in fear of attacks by anti-American insurgents.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview that his government had recalled its ambassador for consultations to signal "a genuine feeling of bitterness" and "real anger among Iraqis over what has happened." The recall, which he said he hoped would be temporary, "was just a message that Iraq is not weak."

Most victims of the Hilla bombing outside a medical clinic were Shiite Muslims. Many Shiites have been particularly incensed by the reported involvement of a Jordanian in the attack. Jordan's population is mostly Sunni.

Anger spilled onto Baghdad streets Friday after midday prayers, when an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Shiite Muslims marched on the Jordanian Embassy and demanded that it close.

During the opening session of Iraq's National Assembly on Wednesday, a leading Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, drew hearty applause from fellow delegates when he complained that Jordan was not doing enough to restrain extremists from infiltrating into Iraq.

Zebari said that even if the initial press report was wrong, "the damage has been done," adding that Iraqis have suffered from the tendency of other Arabs "to encourage people for jihad." The idea of a family celebrating the death of a son who killed more than a hundred Iraqis, he said, "shocked us as if Iraqi blood is cheap."

Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki told the Reuters news agency that his country's embassy in Baghdad, now headed by its chargé d'affaires, was "not closed. We called our diplomat for consultations," he said. "If he says it is safe, then he will go back."

Mulki indicated irritation, however, about the protest.

In a statement, Jordan's prime minister, Faisal Fayez, offered condolences to the families of Iraqis killed in "terrorist acts," condemning "those who take religion as a pretext for committing crimes that have nothing to do with Islam," Reuters reported.

Also on Sunday, a U.S. soldier deployed with 1 Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action in Iraq's western Anbar province, the news agency also reported.

In other attacks, a senior Iraqi anti-corruption police official in the northern city of Mosul was killed by a suicide bomber who used a fake identification card to enter the policeman's office, an Iraqi official there said. Later, during his funeral, two people were killed and at least 10 were wounded when insurgents fired on his funeral procession, hospital officials told Reuters.

In a message posted on an Islamic Web site purportedly from the extremist group al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the group asserted responsibility for the official's killing, according to the Associated Press.

Separately, a Jordanian military court Sunday sentenced Zarqawi, a Jordanian, to 15 years in prison for planning an attack on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad and other sites. Zarqawi's whereabouts are unknown.

Special correspondents Marwan Ibrahim in Kirkuk and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company