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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 15:49 GMT
Iraq women gunned down
US soldiers stand guard near the crater in the ground after an explosion in Baquba
Insurgents have repeatedly attacked US soldiers in and around Baquba
Four Iraqi women who worked for the US army have been killed in a gun attack on their minibus.

Police said several other women were wounded in Wednesday's attack near the town of Falluja, about 50 kilometres (32 miles) west of the capital Baghdad.

They all worked as cleaners and laundry staff at a US base near Baghdad.

Meanwhile, at least two US soldiers were killed in a mortar attack near the central town of Baquba on Wednesday, the US military said.

It said another US soldier was critically wounded in the attack.

Unconfirmed reports said two Iraqi police officers and a motorist were killed in a separate attack near Falluja on Thursday.

And local police said a man was killed and three others injured when a roadside bomb went off 25km northwest of the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi insurgents have carried out a number of attacks targeting Iraqi civilians co-operating with the US-led coalition.

Raked by fire

Iraqi police and hospital officials said gunmen attacked the Iraqi women's minibus at about 1600 local time (1300 GMT) on Wednesday, as they were driven to work at the US base near the town of Habbaniay.

The women were all Armenian or Assyrian Christians, and most were dozing when the attack took place.

A survivor of the attack said masked men in a car raked their minibus with gunfire.

"It is possible that the attackers were terrorists who wanted to hit us because we have good relations with the Americans," another survivor, Suzanne Azat, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"Perhaps they were thieves, but there is certainly a very strong possibility that they were terrorists," said Mussa Adam Abu Shaba, who sister was killed in the attack.

In the Baquba attack, a US military spokeswoman said two soldiers from the 4th Infantry division were killed when their forward operating base near the town came under mortar fire.

"Rockets were also used in the attack," the spokeswoman, Major Josslyn Aberle, added.

In a separate attack, a Spanish paramilitary police officer was shot and injured.

He was taking part in a raid on the home of a suspect in the area to the south of Baghdad where 1,300 Spanish troops are based.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"The women were probably targeted for co-operating with the Americans"



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