Iraqis drag U.S. corpses through streets

FALLUJAH, Iraq – Jubilant residents dragged the charred corpses of American contractors through the streets Wednesday and hanged two of them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American soldiers died in a roadside bombing nearby.

The White House blamed terrorists and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s former regime for the “horrific attacks” that killed the four civilian contractors.

“There are some that are doing everything they can to try to prevent” a June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

The four contract workers were killed in a rebel ambush of their SUVs in Fallujah, a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

It was reminiscent of the 1993 scene in Somalia, when a mob dragged the corpse of a U.S. soldier through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation.

The U.S. State Department said all four contractors were Americans. All four were men, said Sgt. 1st Class Lorraine Hill, a coalition spokeswoman.

In one of the bloodiest days for the U.S. military this year, five 1st Infantry Division soldiers died when their M-113 armored personnel carrier ran over a bomb in a separate incident 12 miles to the northwest, among the reed-lined roads running through some of Iraq’s richest farmland.

In all, at least 597 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began March 20, 2003. Of the total, 459 have died since May 1 when Bush declared the end of major combat.

Residents said the bomb attack occurred in Malahma, 12 miles northwest of Fallujah, where anti-U.S. insurgents are active.

In the deadliest previous incident this year, nine soldiers were killed when their Black Hawk medevac helicopter crashed near Fallujah, apparently after being shot down.

Chanting “Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans,” residents cheered after the grisly assault on two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles, which left both in flames. Others chanted, “We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam.”

Associated Press Television News pictures showed one man beating a charred corpse with a metal pole. Others tied a yellow rope to a body, hooked it to a car and dragged it down the main street of town. Two blackened and mangled corpses were hung from a green iron bridge across the Euphrates.

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