BAGHDAD, Iraq – 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.
A day after the somber milestone was reached, insurgent attacks continued. Four militants hiding behind a mosque shot and killed a government official as he drove to work Wednesday, and an Internet statement claimed Al Qaeda in Iraq (search) has abducted two Moroccan embassy employees.
The 2,000 mark was announced Tuesday, and the U.S. Senate (search) 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 (search).
The milestone came amid growing doubts among the U.S. public about the Iraq conflict, launched in March 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein's (search) 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.
"I hope the number of Americans 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."
Such feelings are not shared by many of Iraq's majority Shiites, who were freed from the oppression and discrimination that they suffered under Saddam.
"Remnants of Saddam's regime are cooperating with Al Qaeda in Iraq. And this, the killing of the Americans, will affect the stability and rebuilding of Iraq," said Hamid al-Sumaysim, 54, a Shiite shop owner in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad (search). "The Americans liberated us and they will help us to rebuild our country."
Abdul Jabar Hassan, 48, a Shiite government electricity worker in the southern city of Basra (search), said the growing U.S. death toll could be the result of poor planning by the Bush administration about rebuilding Iraq after the war.
"I'm not surprised by this number," he said. "I expect it to go even higher because America did not plan for the postwar situation in Iraq or really understand its people."
Meanwhile, an Internet statement claimed that Al Qaeda in Iraq had abducted two Moroccan Embassy employees in Baghdad.
"Your brothers in the military wing of Al Qaeda in Iraq have detained the two Moroccans .... . Their interrogation is ongoing," said the statement, which was posted on an Islamist Web site Tuesday.
The statement's authenticity could not be immediately verified. No demands were made in the statement.
On Monday, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said embassy driver Abderrahim Boualam and employee Abdelkrim el Mouhafidi disappeared Thursday after driving back from Jordan, where they had gone to pick up their paychecks.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for executing numerous hostages, including diplomats from Egypt and Algeria.
In a typical militant attack, four insurgents were waiting behind a Baghdad mosque Wednesday near the home of Nabil Yasir al Musawi, the top accountant in the antiquities and heritage section of Iraq's Tourism Ministry.
The attackers repeatedly fired into their vehicle, killing al Musawi and his driver, said police Capt. Talib Thamir.
"He didn't even have any money in the car at the time. We think it's just another act of terrorism aimed at government employees," Thamir said.
Iraq Body Count, a British research group that compiles its figures from reports by the major news agencies and British and U.S. newspapers, has said that as many as 30,051 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the war. Other estimates range as high as 100,000.
U.S. and coalition authorities say they have not kept a count of such deaths, and Iraqi government accounting has proven to be haphazard.
In Washington, President Bush warned on Tuesday the U.S. public to brace for more casualties in the fight against "as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of common humanity and by the rules of warfare."
"No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead," Bush said in a speech Tuesday before the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' luncheon in Washington.
In the latest casualty reports, the Pentagon on Tuesday said Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas, died Saturday in San Antonio of wounds suffered Oct. 17 in a blast in Samarra, 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two unidentified Marines in fighting last week in a village 25 miles west of Baghdad. Those announcements brought the U.S. death toll to 2,000, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.