BAGHDAD, Iraq – Three American soldiers died in a mortar attack and a roadside bombing west of the capital, and coalition authorities appealed to Iraqis on Sunday for information to help investigators track down those who tried to kill a prominent woman member of Iraq's Governing Council (search).
Iraq also unveiled a new plan to open all sectors of the economy to foreign investment -- except oil -- to revive an economy shattered by years of armed conflict, mismanagement and international sanctions. U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) said the plan offered "real promise" of economic revival but cautioned that security in a country still facing daily violence would be a prerequisite for recovery.
In a sign of the country's ongoing security crisis, the U.S. military reported two soldiers from the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade were killed when mortars struck a U.S. base at the Abu Ghraib prison (search) on the western outskirts of Baghdad about 10 p.m. Saturday. Thirteen other soldiers were wounded in the attack. No prisoners were hurt.
Shortly before the Abu Ghraib shelling, a soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee outside Ramadi, about 60 miles west of the capital, the military said.
Those deaths brought to 166 the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major fighting on May 1. During the heavy fighting before then, 138 soldiers died. The latest deaths brought to 304 the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition launched military operations March 20.
The latest American deaths followed an assassination attempt Saturday against Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council and strong candidate to become Iraq's representative at the United Nations. Al-Hashimi, a Shiite Muslim and career diplomat, was seriously wounded by six gunmen in a pickup truck who chased her in her car near her home on Saturday. The assailants escaped.
Al-Hashimi underwent a second operation and was reported in critical but stable condition at a military hospital on the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces where the Coalition Provisional Authority has its headquarters, an official with the U.S.-led civilian administration said on Sunday.
On Sunday, Douglas Brand, a British adviser to the Iraqi police, said the coalition officials were helping Iraqi police with the investigation and appealed to the public to come forward with any information.
"This was a cowardly attack. She has undergone two operations. She remains in critical but stable condition at the hospital," Brand said. "Anybody who has any further information to offer us, to help us in the investigation, to hunt down those who committed this crime, we ask them to contact the Iraqi police service locally or the coalition forces."
The Governing Council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed Saddam loyalists for the shooting. U.S.-led forces have been struggling to put down a guerrilla-style insurgency that has targeted Americans and their Iraqi allies. The attempt against al-Hashimi was the first against a member of the council since it was appointed by U.S. authorities in July.
Al-Hashimi had been preparing to leave for a key U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday, during which the Iraqi interim government is expected to lobby to represent the country in the world organization. Major U.S. allies are urging Washington to give the United Nations a significant role in bringing stability to this fractured country.
Despite the lack of security, Iraq's interim government announced plans Sunday to open all sectors of its economy except oil to foreign investors and to institute an income tax next year. Iraqi Finance Minister Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani unveiled the plan in Dubai, where the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are holding their annual meetings.
Under the plan, foreign banks will be allowed to enter Iraq, with some restrictions, and foreigners will be permitted to lease property for up to 40 years but not own it. The new policies mark a sharp departure from the tight economic controls that were in place for years under Saddam's one-party rule that lasted for three decades until he was toppled in April.
Al-Gailani also announced a 15 percent maximum tax rate for individuals and corporations starting Jan. 1 and a 5 percent reconstruction surcharge on all imports except for humanitarian goods. Most personal incomes were not taxed under Saddam.
Treasury Secretary Snow applauded the blueprint for a new Iraq economy as "policies that make sense ... that offer real promise," but cautioned that security in a nation still facing daily violence would be a prerequisite for any substantial economic recovery.
"It's awfully important that we see Iraq move forward well and become a place of peace and security," Snow said in Dubai.