Wednesday, May 27, 2009
BAGHDAD, May 26 -- A roadside bomb struck an American convoy returning from an inspection of a U.S.- funded water-treatment plant in Fallujah, killing three Americans, including a senior State Department official, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The embassy said that Terrence Barnich, deputy director of the department's Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Baghdad, was killed along with a U.S. soldier and a civilian Defense Department contractor Monday as they left the construction site in western Iraq.
The military said two other people were wounded.
Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, was once of Iraq's most dangerous locales. In 2004, in an indelible image of the U.S.-led occupation, insurgents there ambushed and killed four employees of the Blackwater security firm. A mob then mutilated the bodies and hung two of them from a bridge over the Euphrates River.
The U.S. military invaded Fallujah twice in 2004, largely vanquishing insurgents there the second time. The city became even quieter after fighters from the region turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq, a homegrown group that U.S. officials say is led by foreigners. Still, attacks like the one Monday are not uncommon.
Colleagues remembered Barnich, 56, as a warm, energetic man who had arrived Iraq in January 2007, during an especially violent period.
"The risks are very much in your mind all the time when you're traveling, but it didn't stop him from going out and continuing to do his job," said Keith Kluwe, a former spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad who worked with Barnich. "That speaks volumes about his character."
Christopher R. Hill, the new U.S. ambassador, called Barnich's death "a tragic loss."
The embassy said the car carrying Barnich and the others ran over an improvised mine near Fallujah after the group had inspected the wastewater-treatment plant being built in the city. It said the plant was the largest U.S.-funded project in Anbar province, a mostly desert region that stretches to the Syrian border. The others killed had yet to be identified.
The U.S. military has largely left Fallujah and other towns in Anbar, ahead of a June 30 deadline for troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities. But military and civilian officials still oversee U.S.-funded projects in the region.
-- Anthony Shadid