BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Suspected insurgents killed four American civilian contractors in a grenade attack Wednesday in central Iraq, U.S. officials said.
Cheering residents in Fallujah pulled charred bodies from burning vehicles and hung them from a Euphrates River bridge.
Crowds gathered around the vehicles and dragged at least one of the bodies through the streets, witnesses said.
Residents pulled another body from one of the cars and beat it with sticks.
Elsewhere in the Fallujah region, five American soldiers died in a roadside bombing near Habbaniya, the U.S. military said.
The fatalities brought the U.S. military death toll in Iraq to 600, 408 of them in hostile action.
The four American civilians killed were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, the U.S. government contractor providing security for food deliveries in Fallujah, the company said.
A company statement said their exact identities were not yet known, but “our thoughts and prayers are with their families.”
According to its Web site, the company was founded in 1996 to meet the demand of government outsourcing of security.
Witnesses to the incident said two Mitsubishi vehicles left a military base east of Fallujah to make their way into the city, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Baghdad.
The vehicles turned onto a Fallujah street as men — whose faces were covered by head scarves — split into two groups and threw hand grenades at the cars, witnesses said.
The assailants then sprayed the burning cars with small-arms fire.
Video showed crowds chanting and cheering at the scene, with charred corpses hanging from the bridge over the Euphrates.
Fallujah is part of al Anbar province in the Sunni Triangle, a region north and west of the capital that has been a hotbed of opposition to the U.S. presence.
The White House condemned the “horrific attacks” by people “trying to prevent democracy from moving forward,” said press secretary Scott McClellan.
A changeover from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Marines is under way in al Anbar.
“There’s a small core element [in Fallujah] that doesn’t seem to get it,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, an Army spokesman.
Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said those who exulted over the attack “are not people we are here to help. They are people who have a much different vision for the future of Iraq and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis.”
In other violence Wednesday, two bodyguards for the governor of Diala province and three civilians were wounded in Baqubah, north of Baghdad, when an attacker pulled a car up beside the governor’s car and detonated a bomb, Kimmitt said.
The bomb damaged vehicles and a building, but the governor was unharmed, he said.
Three British troops were wounded, one seriously, by a makeshift bomb near Basra in southern Iraq, a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.
In northern Iraq, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police detained 20 people Tuesday suspected of anti-coalition activities:
Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and Iraqi police detained 10 people in Mosul. Iraqi police in Mosul also apprehended two people wanted in connection with a drive-by shooting.
Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment detained five suspects speeding away from the scene of a rocket attack in Hammam Al Alil near Mosul. The soldiers detained two suspects after searching door-to-door in Hammam Al Alil. Also in Hammam Al Alil, soldiers detained one suspect at a traffic control point.