Philippines rejects deadline from Iraqi kidnappers
* Four US soldiers, Iraqi civilian killed in explosions
* Zarqawi group claims suicide attack in Samarra
BAGHDAD: The Philippines on Sunday rejected a fresh 24-hour deadline from Iraqi militants threatening to execute a Filipino hostage if Manila does not withdraw its troops from Iraq ahead of schedule.
Despite mounting calls from the public to withdraw the 51-man Filipino contingent early to spare the life of Angelo de la Cruz, the government said the troops would remain until their scheduled return next month. “In line with our commitment to the free people of Iraq, we reiterate our plan to return our humanitarian contingent as scheduled on 20 August, 2004,” Foreign Secretary Delia Albert told a news conference following an emergency cabinet meeting.
Bulgaria said on Sunday hopes were increasing that two Bulgarian truck drivers taken hostage in Iraq were still alive as hours passed after a Friday execution deadline expired.
“Today we have more reasons than yesterday to believe that there has been no radical change in the situation of the Bulgarian hostages in Iraq,” Gergana Grancharova, foreign ministry spokeswoman, told state radio. Two US soldiers were killed and another was wounded in northern Iraq on Sunday in a roadside bomb attack on a convoy that also killed an Iraqi civilian, the US military said. In a statement, it said the convoy then came under fire from a speeding vehicle. Troops fired back and killed the driver. It said the incident took place between Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.
Two US soldiers were killed and three wounded when their convoy was targeted in a roadside bomb blast on Sunday near Samarra, the US military said.
“Two 1st Infantry Division Soldiers assigned to Task Force Danger were killed and three other soldiers were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on their convoy near Samarra at about 4:29pm (1229 GMT),” it said. Four US marines who died in western Iraq on Saturday lost their lives in a vehicle accident, not in combat, the US military said on Sunday.
A statement said the four members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force had died in Anbar province, which includes the restive Sunni Muslim towns of Fallujah and Ramadi, while “conducting security and stability operations”. A marine spokesman later said the deaths were “as a result of a vehicle accident and were considered non-hostile”.
The group led by suspected Al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has said it carried out an attack in Iraq last week that killed five US soldiers and two Iraqis.
Saddam’s lawyers: Defence team for Saddam Hussein, who faces trial on charges of crimes against humanity, is calling for a meeting with the deposed Iraqi dictator in a neutral country, one of the lawyers said Sunday.
“We have asked the Iraqi Special Tribunal for protection for the lawyers because of threats they are getting by telephone or during mosque prayers in Iraq, and for the transfer of our client to a neutral place like Switzerland or Austria so we can meet him,” said Jordanian lawyer Ziyad Khassawneh. agencies