Iraq Militants Threaten 'Another Vietnam'

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen attacked a U.S.-run civilian convoy in Iraq's western desert Tuesday and some personnel were unaccounted for, U.S. officials said.

In a videotape released Tuesday, armed people claiming to be members of a radical Shiite Muslim militia threatened suicide attacks on U.S. forces and their allies in Iraq.

The video showed about 10 black-cloaked men and women posing with grenade launchers and Kalashnikovs, while a female voice and then a male voice read threatening messages in Arabic. "We will carry out martyrdom operations against the American infidels. We will make it another Vietnam if our leader Seyed Moqtada al-Sadr is hurt," a woman's voice said, referring to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, currently holed up in the holy city of Najaf under the protection of his armed militia, the al-Mahdi Army.

In the attack on the U.S. convoy, an unknown number of vehicles were destroyed near the town of Rutba, 370 kilometers west of Baghdad, on the road between Iraq and Jordan, the officials said. The convoy was operated by a contractor of KBR, or Kellogg, Brown & Root, which is a subsidiary of Halliburton. Meanwhile, a U.S. civilian was found dead with signs of trauma on the corpse near a highway overpass in Baghdad, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The man, whose identity was not released, was not connected with the U.S. military or civilian government mission in Iraq, a military spokesman said. The body was discovered Saturday.

Late Monday, U.S. forces clashed with al-Sadr's gunmen in the southern city of Kufa, killing at least five Iraqis and injuring 14 others, hospital officials said. Kufa is near Najaf, where al-Sadr took refuge last month, after U.S. authorities announced they were seeking him in connection with the assassination last year of a moderate cleric.

U.S. troops have been involved in sporadic clashes with al-Sadr's forces for weeks. But the Americans have avoided an all-out assault on Najaf to avoid inflaming Shiite passions.The new U.S.-appointed Najaf governor said Tuesday he will ask occupation authorities to defer murder charges against al-Sadr under a proposed deal to end the standoff with his Shiite Muslim militia.

Adnan al-Zurufi, who was appointed last week, proposed that the U.S.-led administration agree to delay legal proceedings against al-Sadr until after the transfer of power to a new Iraqi administration June 30. In the northern city of Kirk, a homemade bomb exploded in a crowded market killing four Iraqis and injuring 23, a security official said.

The bomb exploded in a mostly Kurdish district, also destroying two cars, said Colonel Anwar Mohammed Main of the Iraqi security forces. Kirk is a mixed city of Kurds, Arabs and ethnic Turks.

Residents of the Shiite neighborhood Sadr City on Tuesday began rebuilding the Baghdad headquarters of al-Sadr, which was destroyed in a tank and helicopter attack by U.S. forces at about midnight Sunday.

At the urging of al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army, local Shiites brought bricks, cement and gypsum to the site. Parts of the building had already been repaired by midday.

Dutch officials, meanwhile, said two men have been arrested for a grenade attack that killed one Dutch soldier and wounded another in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah.

The casualties Monday night were the first for the Dutch since the Netherlands sent 1,300 soldiers to participate in the U.S.-led force.