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Deadliest month for Iraq coalition

Bloodied rags litter the roadside after the attack on two South Korean contractors.
Bloodied rags litter the roadside after the attack on two South Korean contractors.

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Insurgents kill over a dozen people, including U.S., Japanese and Spanish citizens.
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TIKRIT, Iraq (CNN) -- Fifteen people have been killed in five weekend attacks on troops, diplomats, agents and contractors from countries participating in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

The attacks came at the close of the deadliest month for coalition forces since the war began, but U.S. and coalition officials reiterated their determination to stay in Iraq despite such strikes.

The ambushes continued Sunday afternoon when U.S. troops fought off two simultaneous attacks on military convoys in northern Iraq, killing 46 attackers, wounding 18 and capturing eight others, military officials said.

During the gunfights, U.S. tanks crushed makeshift barricades set up by the guerrillas and destroyed three buildings from which the Iraqi fighters were launching attacks. (Full story)

Earlier, two South Korean power company contractors were killed and two others wounded, one critically, in an attack in northern Iraq, South Korean officials said. (Full story)

On Saturday, Iraqi insurgents killed seven Spanish intelligence agents and wounded another as their convoy moved south from Baghdad. Spain's defense minister called the highway ambush an "assassination."

Two Japanese diplomats and their Iraqi driver were shot and killed near Tikrit when they made a stop for food en route to an Iraqi reconstruction conference, U.S. military and Japanese officials said.

Assailants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms ambushed a U.S. military convoy east of Qusaybah near Iraq's border with Syria, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding another, according to the Coalition Press Information Center.

And coalition officials say a civilian -- a senior security representative of a U.S. company providing contracted services in Iraq -- was shot and killed Saturday as he drove to a U.S. base north of Baghdad near Balad.

The representative was a citizen of Colombia and an employee of Kellogg Brown & Root Services, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., U.S. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. Colombia is among the members of the coalition.

With the deaths of the two U.S. soldiers Saturday, the number of coalition troops killed in Iraq during November reached 100 -- more than in March or April, when the war was in full force. Eighty-eight of the soldiers died under hostile fire.

The deaths include 81 Americans, 17 Italians killed in the bombing of the Italian military headquarters in Nasiriya, a British soldier who died in a traffic accident and a Polish major killed when his convoy was shelled. (Deaths by month)

And the U.S. military Sunday admitted the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters, which collided in midair over Mosul, was probably the result of a rocket-propelled grenade fired at one of the aircraft.

Army officer Col. Joe Anderson said that while the investigation into the November 15 crash is not conclusive, "it appears that the collision was caused by one of them being hit by something from the ground, probably a rocket."

A coalition spokesman said Iraqi insurgents "are trying to break the coalition's will."

"The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people are grateful for the liberation, and they don't want us to leave," Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senyor said.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a coalition military spokesman, said the attacks reflected the insurgents' apparent shift from military targets to civilian or diplomatic "soft" targets.

"We have said for the last couple of weeks that we have seen the enemy starting to attack soft targets, Iraqi targets, rather than military targets," Kimmitt said. "He is attempting to intimidate the people of Iraq. He will not succeed."

In Madrid, a transport plane carrying the bodies of the seven slain Spaniards landed Sunday night at an air base near the capital.

Coalition forces secure the road near where seven Spanish intelligence agents were killed in Iraq.
Coalition forces secure the road near where seven Spanish intelligence agents were killed in Iraq.

Earlier, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told his nation in a televised address that Spain would stay in Iraq and continue to support the U.S-led coalition despite the agents' deaths. (Full story)

Spain has about 1,300 troops in Iraq stationed in the Polish-controlled sector of the country between Baghdad and Basra.

The Japanese victims were identified as Katsuhiko Oku, 45, who worked for the Japanese Embassy in London and who had been in Iraq for several months, and Masamori Inoue, 30, who worked for the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said the attack occurred as the two men were traveling to attend an Iraqi reconstruction conference.

"There's no change in the Japanese government's foreign policy," Kawaguchi said. Japan will not close its embassy in Baghdad and officials are not considering reducing staffing levels there, she added. (Full story)

Hours before Saturday's attacks, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition ground forces in Iraq, told reporters that attacks against coalition forces in Iraq had dropped by 30 percent over the past two weeks.

He said the average of 22 engagements per day over the past week was down from more than 35 per day in prior weeks.

That trend, however, has reversed for Iraqis working with the U.S.-led coalition.

Since the start of Ramadan, attacks on Iraqis have more than doubled, Sanchez said, noting in the 32 days since the start of the Muslim holy month, 74 attacks had been directed against Iraqi civilians and government officials and 82 attacks against Iraqi security forces.

CNN Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-ae and CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this report

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