BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. Marine jets Tuesday attacked two bridges across the Euphrates River near the Syrian border to prevent insurgents from moving foreign fighters and munitions toward Baghdad and other cities, the U.S. command said.
A Marine statement also said U.S. and Iraqi forces destroyed a "foreign fighter safe house," killed two foreigners and arrested three others during a Tuesday raid in the same area as the bridge attack.
Elsewhere, Iraqi civilians said they could see smoke rising Tuesday from the northern city of Tal Afar, where fighting has been raging for days between U.S.-Iraqi forces and insurgents said to include foreign fighters.
The U.S. command said two American soldiers were killed by separate bombs Monday and two were killed and two others wounded Tuesday by a roadside bomb. At least 1,893 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Witnesses saw ambulances evacuating at least 10 injured civilians from the city Tuesday.
The fighting occurred after U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Iraq had become an even greater terrorist center than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Attacks attributed to al-Qaida's wing in Iraq have stepped up in the Baghdad area and western Iraq.
A Marine statement said F/A-18 jets dropped bombs shortly after midnight on two light bridges near Karabilah, about 185 miles west of Baghdad.
"The purpose of the strike was to prevent al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists from using the structures for vehicular traffic to conduct attacks," the U.S. statement said. "The munitions used in the strike were designed to crater the bridges, rendering them inoperable but not destroying them."
The clash at the safe house occurred when U.S. and Iraqi troops came under fire "by foreign fighters occupying" the building, the Marines said.
"Multinational forces personnel returned fire and assaulted the building, suffering one friendly casualty when a Multinational Force soldier was wounded," the statement said without citing the soldier's nationality.
Troops called in aircraft to destroy the building, "which was being used as an operational headquarters," the statement added.
Karabilah is one of a cluster of towns near the Syrian border, a major infiltration route for foreign fighters heading for Baghdad and other major cities. Iraqi officials say al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has taken over parts of the area after residents fled fighting between tribes supporting and opposing the insurgents.
Annan told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that many young Muslims are angry, and the situation has been exacerbated by what is happening in Iraq.
"They feel victimized in their own society; they feel victimized in the West. And they feel there's profiling against them," he said. "And the Iraqi situation has not helped matters."
Annan added: "One used to be worried about Afghanistan being the center of terrorist activities. My sense is that Iraq has become a major problem and in fact is worse than Afghanistan."
In statements posted on Islamic Web sites, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for two attacks Monday — a roadside bombing that killed two British soldiers west of Basra and a daring daylight assault against the Interior Ministry in Baghdad in which two policemen died.
U.S. Marines said al-Qaida in Iraq launched multiple attacks Sunday against U.S. and Iraqi targets in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. Twelve people — including 11 civilians, an Iraqi soldier and three suicide bombers — died in the Hit attacks
Elsewhere, Iraqi officials said al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters had taken control of large areas of a strategic city on the Syrian border after weeks of fighting between an Iraqi tribe that supports the insurgents and one that opposes them.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said much of Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad, had been abandoned.
U.S. Marines operate around Qaim but have complained privately that they do not have enough American or Iraqi forces to secure the area properly.
The attacks in the Hit area began Sunday when two suicide car bombs exploded at security barricades on the northwest side of town, a Marine statement said.
A car bomb also exploded on the Hit bridge across the Euphrates River, rendering it impassable, the Marines said.
The Marine statement said three insurgents and one Iraqi soldier died in the attacks. The government in Baghdad said eight civilians also died.
In Doha, Qatar, the U.S. Central Command said U.S. jets launched airstrikes Sunday on insurgent positions near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, dropping two 500-pound bombs.
The statement also said an Air Force Predator aircraft fired two Hellfire missiles against a mortar firing position near Balad.
On Monday, gunmen seized a son of the governor of insurgent-infested Anbar province, Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani, officials said on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent reprisal. The abduction occurred in the provincial capital of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped the new constitution, which goes to the voters in an Oct. 15 referendum, would help pacify the insurgency by luring Sunni Arabs away from it.
However, Sunni negotiators rejected the constitution and vowed to defeat it in the referendum. The bitter, protracted negotiations appeared to have raised tensions among Iraq's ethnic and religious communities.
Officials said last week they were considering some minor changes in the constitution to appease the Sunnis. But Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Dabagh said Tuesday the only change would be to add language affirming Iraq's status as a founding member of the Arab League to allay fears of Iraq's Arab neighbors.
The language at issue describes Iraq as an Islamic — but not Arab — country, a concession to the non-Arab Kurds who form about 15 percent of the Iraqi population.
On Monday, President Jalal Talabani said he and the other top Kurdish leader, Massood Barzani, had agreed to adding references to the Arab League.