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US hunts for clues, troops

Baghdad, June 27 (Reuters): US troops in Iraq today searched for missing American comrades and hunted for clues to the killing of other soldiers in the face of growing resistance to three months of occupation.

Britain’s Financial Times said the Pentagon had sent an independent mission to Iraq to review postwar operations at a time when companies looking to invest are being warned of an “even” chance the country will descend into open revolt.

In a further sign of tensions since US and British troops toppled Saddam Hussein, Britain blamed a misunderstanding for the killings of six British soldiers by Iraqis this week.

The US army said today that another of its soldiers was killed in an ambush yesterday, raising to 21 the number of Americans killed since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

A US Central Command statement, while scarce on details, said the soldier was ambushed near Najaf yesterday while investigating a car theft and died before he could be taken away for medical treatment. The army said it was investigating.

It also said it was questioning three Iraqi suspects about two US soldiers missing with their Humvee vehicle since Wednesday. Troops searched on land and by air, using two AH-64 Apache helicopters to look for the soldiers. A defence official said the two soldiers were believed to have been kidnapped from the town of Balad.

In Tuesday’s killing of six British servicemen, Major-General Peter Wall, commander of British forces patrolling southern Iraq, said his troops had never intended to search for weapons in Majjar as locals had mistakenly thought.

He vowed yesterday to bring the killers to justice. But angry local leaders warned against any attempt to arrest those suspected of carrying out the attack the worst on invading forces since March 23 — three days after the war began. With sabotage against oil installations and attacks on US-led forces coming almost daily, US secretary of state Colin Powell said.

“We always knew that it would be dangerous and it would take time...We are concerned obviously and we are working hard to deal with the problem and I have confidence in the department of defence and the military commanders.” The Financial Times said the Pentagon had sent an outside team of policy experts to conduct an independent review of postwar operations in Iraq amid growing criticism that Washington failed to prepare for occupation.

It said a small group had left for Baghdad on Thursday at the invitation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

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