BAGHDAD, Iraq, (AP) -Insurgents killed two Marines with guns and rocket-propelled grenades in western Iraq, prompting U.S. jets to pound insurgent positions with high-tech bombs, officials said Friday. The deaths brought to 10 the number of U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq this week.
Following a rash of attacks and abductions of diplomats in Iraq, the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad has relocated its employees to Amman, Jordan, Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Jose Brillantes said Friday.
"We continue to maintain our diplomatic ties with Iraq," Brillantes said. "The embassy in Baghdad remains open and the diplomats in Baghdad are in Amman for security reasons occasioned by the recent kidnappings of diplomats."
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol in the dangerous Dora neighborhood, police reported. At least three civilians were wounded but casualty reports were incomplete, police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said.
A U.S. military statement said the two Marines belonged to Regimental Combat Team-2 of the 2nd Marine Division and were killed Thursday by small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire in a village west of Haditha about 170 miles west of Baghdad.
The Marines reported killing nine insurgents, five believed to be Syrians, during an engagement Thursday in the same small village.
Jets from the 2nd Marine Air Wing dropped three laser-guided bombs and one global positioning system guided bomb on three buildings used by the insurgents as firing positions, destroying all three of them, the statement added.
Two suspected insurgents were arrested, the statement said. It did not say how the military determined that five of the dead insurgents were Syrian.
The United States is gambling that political progress will help curb the insurgency by luring away Sunni Arabs, who account for most of the rebels. Key to the strategy is preparation of a new constitution which must be approved by parliament by Aug. 15 and submitted to the voters in a referendum two months later.
On Friday, key members of the committee writing the charter said they have almost finished the draft and expect to submit it to parliament by the end of the month.
The committee did not meet Friday — the Muslim holy day — but discussions will resume Saturday, the members said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said Friday they have captured a cell leader of the notorious al-Qaida in Iraq terror organization.
Ammar Abu Bara, alias Amar Hussein Hasan, was arrested Wednesday in Mosul, Iraq”s third largest city, by troops of the Army”s 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, a U.S. statement said.
The statement said Abu Bara was taken into custody during a cordon and search operation in a neighborhood in northern Mosul. Abu Bara replaced Abu Talha, former terror cell leader for the Mosul area who was arrested last month, the statement added.
No U.S. or Iraqi soldiers were injured in the operation.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings, kidnap-slaying of foreign diplomats, beheadings of U.S. and other foreign hostages and suicide attacks.
On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said the military is considering offering protection to foreign diplomats in Baghdad after al-Qaida agents killed three Arab envoys this month.
"Coalition forces… are planning to look at this problem and see what could be done to fix the security for the diplomats," Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Thursday.
He spoke a day after al-Qaida in Iraq announced it had killed two Algerian diplomats — including the country”s chief envoy in Iraq — because of their government”s ties to the United States and its crackdown on Islamic extremists.
Chief envoy Ali Belaroussi and diplomat Azzedine Belkadi were kidnapped outside their embassy in Baghdad”s western neighborhood of Mansour. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility.
The group also claimed responsibility for the kidnap-slaying of Egypt”s top envoy and the attempted abduction of two other Muslim diplomats in a campaign to undercut support for the new Iraqi government within the Arab and Muslim world.
The United States has urged Arab and Muslim countries to deepen their diplomatic ties to Baghdad — a strategy that seems at risk after the brutal attacks.
Khalilzad said no final decision had been made on offering protection.
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy also told a newspaper that at least seven people from France have been killed in Iraq after joining insurgents there.
"At least seven people from France have died there fighting for al-Qaida”s cause, some in suicide attacks, and about 10 others are still there," Sarkozy told Le Parisien in an interview being published Friday.
The interior minister said he wanted to reinforce surveillance of flights to Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which he said are stopovers for Europeans heading to Iraq to join militant groups.