Iraqis react controversially on U.S. death toll of 2,000

Some Iraqis sympathized with U.S. forces on Wednesday after hearing the American death toll in the Iraq war had reached 2,000. But others noted that many more Iraqis had died in the conflict and said they hope the U.S. "occupiers" will soon go home. The somber milestone was announced on Tuesday, and the total rose to 2,001 on Wednesday when the military announced that a soldier had died the day before in a vehicle accident near Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention center in southern Iraq.

Insurgent attacks also continued. Four militants hiding behind a mosque shot and killed a government official as he drove to work in Baghdad on Wednesday, and an Internet statement claimed al-Qaida in Iraq has abducted two Moroccan embassy employees.

Suspected insurgents also gunned down two Iraqi policemen in the western city of Ramadi and two Iraqi soldiers in Tarmiyah, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital.

When the 2,000 mark was announced in the United States, the U.S. Senate observed a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Americans.

"We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their courage, for their valor, for their strength, for their commitment to our country," said Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The milestone came amid growing doubts among the U.S. public about the Iraq conflict, launched in March 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. None was ever found.

In Iraq, many people heard of the 2,000 figure on Arab satellite TV channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

Some Iraqis complained that the attention was misguided because far more Iraqis have died in the conflict than Americans. No one knows an exact number of Iraqi deaths, but there is some consensus, including from a U.S. military spokesman and outside experts, that an independent count of roughly 30,000 is a relatively credible tally of Iraqi civilian deaths, the AP reports.

"I hope the number of American occupiers who die goes even higher," said Omar Ahmed, 36, the Sunni Arab owner of an electricity shop in Dora, one of the most violent parts of Baghdad.

Nearby, Ali al-Obeidi, a 28-year-old Sunni Arab, said he hoped the U.S. losses would prompt the United States to leave Iraq.

"It makes me happy," he said about the grim 2,000 dead soldiers milestone. "They're an occupation force."

Al-Obeidi said the number pales in comparison to the thousands of dead Iraqis. "The Iraqis are my brothers. We saw nothing good from the Americans. They hurt us and their presence in Iraq is to blame for all the Iraqi deaths."


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