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Bomb kills U.S. troops near Najaf; Iraqi missile damages Kuwait City mall

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Five U.S. 3rd Infantry Division soldiers were killed in Iraq today by an apparent suicide bomber at a road checkpoint near Najaf.

"That kind of activity, I think, is something that is a symbol of an organization that's beginning to get a little bit desperate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, noted to reporters.

Senior officials at the command's forward headquarters in Qatar discussed this and other news with reporters covering Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U.S. and coalition troops are trained to look out for such terrorist-type tactics like suicide bombers, Renuart noted. Yet, he acknowledged, there are a lot of civilians among Iraq's 24 million people.

"There is a fair amount of civilian traffic (in Iraq) that we just have to be cautious with," the two-star said, adding that he offered his condolences to the deceased troops' families.

U.S. and coalition military operations in and around Iraq are continuing without pause, he said.

Allied forces are busy patrolling, bombing targets to further degrade Saddam Hussein's communications system, and conducting raids, he pointed out. In fact, Renuart said, a raid was conducted last night against one of Hussein's Republican Guard divisions arrayed near Baghdad.

"We conducted a helicopter deep-attack mission last night with a number of our Apache helicopters into an element of the Medina Division," he explained. The raid "was a very successful attack," Renuart asserted, citing "a number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, multipurpose vehicles, and mobile surface-to-air missile radars were destroyed."

All the raid personnel and aircraft returned to base, he said, noting two choppers had mechanical problems.

And, "we're moving supplies up to units," Renuart continued. Attacks on the coalition's 250-mile-long supply line by irregular Iraqi forces are becoming less frequent and are mounted by fewer enemy troops, he added.

However, an Iraqi missile apparently eluded Kuwait City's missile-defense radar system and damaged a shopping center, Renuart said. U.S. and coalition troops, he noted, are searching for possible launch sites.

"We have a number of forces (searching) on the Al Faw Peninsula," the general said. "I couldn't tell you that they've been into every single farmhouse that there may be out there. It's certainly possible that someone could have hidden equipment that we may not have been aware of."

"I do know that the land component commander is investigating areas where this (missile) may have come from," Renuart concluded. (Courtesy American Forces Press Service)

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