| Iraqi boys with food packets given by US troops in Jumalah, near Falluja. (AFP)
Baghdad, July 10 (Reuters): One US soldier was shot dead and another was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq, the US military said today, as President George W. Bush acknowledged Washington had a “security issue” here.
The deaths raised to 31 the number of US soldiers killed by hostile fire in Iraq since May 1, when Bush declared major combat over in the war that ousted President Saddam Hussein.
“There’s no question we’ve got a security issue in Iraq,” Bush said in Botswana, the latest stop in a visit to Africa. “We’re going to have to deal with it person-by-person. We’re going to have to remain tough.”
The US military said one soldier was killed when his convoy came under small arms fire near al Mahmudiyah, about 40 km south of Baghdad, at around 1430 GMT last evening.
Around four hours later, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a convoy north of Baghdad, killing a soldier from the US army’s Fourth Infantry Division and wounding another, US central command said.
US officials have blamed isolated remnants of Saddam’s security forces for the attacks on their troops, which continue on a daily basis despite his downfall.
“Once again the apologists for Saddam Hussein are bringing misery on their country,” Bush said.
Two audio tapes purportedly recorded by Saddam have called on Iraqis to fight the occupation. US officials have said the tapes may encourage his supporters to carry out attacks but they insist Iraqis will realise over time Saddam is finished.
Bush said the US was making “steady progress” in its mission to establish security and rebuild Iraq. “It’s important for us to stay the course. We will stay the course,” he said. But some Iraqis say the attacks reflect more widespread opposition to the US-led occupation of their country.
The Arabic satellite channel al Jazeera reported yesterday it had received a message claiming responsibility for attacks on US forces from a group called the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance which said it had no ties to Saddam.
US forces have come under attack most often in Baghdad and mainly Sunni areas to the north and west of the city which were bastions of support for Saddam, himself a Sunni.
Iraqi police today called on US forces to leave one flashpoint town, Falluja 50 km west of Baghdad, threatening to quit in 48 hours if their demands were not met. After overnight rocket-propelled grenade attacks on their police station and a local government building, more than 100 members of the US-backed police force protested in the town.
They said the presence of the troops provoked violence.
“We have the ability to protect these sites,” said Riyadh Abdel-Latif, the Iraqi police chief in the town.
“The presence of Americans endangers us. We asked the Americans more than a month-and-a-half ago to leave Falluja.”