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Despite Hazards, American Forces Making Progress

Despite Hazards, American Forces Making Progress in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2003 – Despite a dangerous situation on the ground, American forces are overseeing tremendous humanitarian progress in Iraq.

U.S. troops exchanged fire with Iraqis at least seven times over the past weekend, with one American soldier being shot in Baghdad May 4.

A 3rd Infantry Division soldier was shot in the back of the head by an Iraqi civilian in a city intersection, a U.S. Central Command release stated today.

"Two Marines provided first aid, and the soldier was evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, where he is in stable condition," the release stated. Defense Department officials have not released the soldier's name.

In Hillah, off-duty Iraqi policemen fired on American Marines when the Marines caught them attempting to steal a civilian vehicle. One Iraqi policeman was killed and another wounded in the ensuing firefight, CENTCOM officials said.

Marines captured an individual who fired on them at a traffic-control point in Diwaniyah, while 3rd Infantry Division soldiers wounded one of a group of looters who fired upon them in Baghdad.

A group of "20-30 armed men" fired on a patrol from the Army's 4th Infantry Division in Samarra. The group dispersed when the soldiers left their vehicle and returned fire, according to the CENTCOM release.

Marines and soldiers had also exchanged fire with Iraqis at Fallujah and Samawah the previous day, officials said.

In addition, two soldiers in the Gulf region died from non- combat-related gunshot wounds over the weekend. In Kirkuk, Iraq, a soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade died as a result of "an apparent accident involving his personal weapon" at roughly 11:15 a.m. local time, CENTCOM officials said.

Another soldier, this one a member of the 1st Armored Division, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Camp New Jersey, Kuwait. Officials are investigating both incidents, and neither soldier's name has been released.

Despite all this, officials report, progress continues throughout Iraq. Over the weekend, coalition forces reported:

o Soldiers from V Corps continued to remove stockpiled Iraqi ammunition from sites in Baghdad to prevent black marketing. Similar to what's been done in Afghanistan, unserviceable weapons and ammunition are destroyed, while functioning equipment and intact ammunition are being held for future use by the Iraqi military.

o Five out of 14 schools in Safwan reopened. In Al Zabayr, 48 of 60 schools have reopened.

o The Kirkuk government building formally reopened.

o All five hospitals in Najaf are open, and all five have functioning ambulance service.

o Power is fully restored in one-third of 27 key cities. Water supply is at or above pre-war levels in more than half of the cities.

o The security situation in 19 of the key cities is considered "permissive." Iraqi police forces are operating in many of the cities, often with joint Iraqi/coalition patrols.

"The month of May is a key month for getting all the public services stood up or at least with a good prospect of being stood up and getting the law enforcement system back," retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, director of DoD's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, said in Baghdad today before departing on a one-day visit to Basra.

Garner did, however, express disappointment in his operation's inability to get radio and television service back on the air in Iraq. "We haven't done a good job," he said. "I want TV going to the people, … with a soft demeanor – programs they want to see."

In Basra, Garner met with hospital officials to assess their needs. A reporter traveling with Garner's team said the hospital was poorly supplied and ill-kept.

"We'll bring in quick cash to make a quick difference," pledged Garner's deputy, British Maj. Gen. Tim Cross, who also with the team.

ENDS

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