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U.S. military reports 5 troops killed in Iraq; 32 Shiite mourners killed in suicide bombing

U.S. military reports 5 troops killed in Iraq; 32 Shiite mourners killed in suicide bombing

Five U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks this weekend, the military said Monday, pushing the death toll past 100 in the deadliest month so far this year. A suicide bomber blew himself up during a Shiite funeral in a volatile area north of Baghdad, the deadliest in a series of attacks that left near 100 people dead nationwide.
Police said the bomber detonated his explosives about 6:30 p.m. inside a tent where people were mourning a 60-year-old man from a Shiite family in Khalis, a flashpoint Shiite enclave in Diyala province, where U.S.-Iraqi forces have seen fierce fighting with Sunni and Shiite militants. Officials in Diyala and Baghdad said at least 32 people were killed and some 60 wounded as the casualty toll rose from the attack.
The family included about 20 people who were members of the police and army, residents said, making them a likely target for suspected insurgents who frequently target Iraqi security forces they accuse of collaborating with the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
Monday's attack occurred four days after a suicide car bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in the city, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.
Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for that attack as mostly Sunni Arab insurgents are thought to have fled to the area to escape the security crackdown in Baghdad that U.S. and Iraqi troops launched Feb. 14 in a bid to quell the rampang sectarian violence.
In all, at least 98 people were killed or found dead in Iraq, including 35 bullet-riddled bodies showing signs of torture _ 27 in Baghdad _ apparent victims of so-called sectarian death squads.
The killings of the Americans came as U.S. troops have been increasingly deployed on the streets of Baghdad and housed with Iraqi troops in joint security stations away from their heavily fortified bases, raising their vulnerability to attacks.
A roadside bomb killed three soldiers and wounded another while they were on a combat patrol Sunday in eastern Baghdad, the military said. An Iraqi interpreter also was killed in the attack. Another soldier was reported killed by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad on Saturday.
The military did not provide more details, but eastern Baghdad is a predominantly Shiite area where American and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations as part of the nearly 11-week-old security operation.
A Marine also was killed Sunday in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital, the military said, while an al-Qaida-linked group warned that it plans for a "long-term war of attrition" against American forces in Anbar.
Underscoring the threat, a tanker truck exploded near a restaurant just west of the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, killing four people and wounding six, local police said.
U.S.-backed Sunni sheiks and tribal leaders have begun turning against al-Qaida in the province, forming the Anbar Salvation Council. That has helped reduce violence in cities like the provincial capital of Ramadi but has triggered clashes for control of the vast desert area that borders Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida, warned militants were developing long-term plans and tactics for a "long-term war of attrition" against the Americans.
"The Marines do not confront the militants face to face but they hide themselves behind thieves and highway robbers," the group said, apparently referring to the tribal alliance in an Internet statement on a militant Web site. "The mujahedeen are ongoing in their fights against the enemies of God."
Baghdad was struck by a series of scattered attacks, including several explosions that rocked the area near the heavily fortified Green Zone. The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the blasts.
Two parked car bombs killed a total of seven people in different parts of the capital, and a suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi checkpoint as he emerged from an underpass in a predominantly Sunni area elsewhere in western Baghdad, collapsing part of the road and killing four people.
A string of mortar rounds also struck a Shiite district in northern Baghdad, killing at least nine people, including two boys, and wounded 10, police said.
In northern Iraq, a parked car bomb struck a police patrol in a mainly Sunni Arab area in Mosul, killing one policeman and wounding two others, police Brig. Gen. Mohammed Idan al-Jubouri said.
The attack occurred about four hours after some 50 gunmen attacked a police station in the same area, prompting clashes as police chased the gunmen through the narrow streets. Four of the gunmen were killed and two others detained, while one policeman was wounded, police said.
Amid the continuing violence that is whittling away at Iraqis' confidence in the Shiite-led government, Iran agreed to join the U.S. and other countries at a conference on Iraq this week, raising hopes the Iranian government would help stem the flow of guns and bombs over the border.
Senior Iranian envoy Ali Larijani flew to Baghdad on Sunday for talks with Iraqi leaders ahead of this week's meetings in Egypt _ the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
Larijani met Monday with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and offered Iranian support for the Iraqi government, saying "we see that Iraq's territories and unity must be preserved."
Zebari stressed the importance of the meetings Thursday and Friday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.
"It is true that it aims to help the Iraqi government in improving security and stability, but it also has regional and international dimensions. It is in Iraq's interest that the atmosphere be good," Zebari said.
The U.S. deaths raised to at least 104 American troops who have died in Iraq as April draws to a close, the deadliest month since December, when 112 Americans died. The U.S. monthly death toll has topped 100 five other times since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count based on military figures.
At least 3,351 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started, according to the AP count.
U.S. President George W. Bush has committed some 30,000 extra American troops to the security operation in Baghdad, but he is facing legislation by the Democratic-led Congress calling for the Americans to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1. Bush has promised to veto the measure.
It also has been the deadliest month for British forces in Iraq since the first month of the war. The 11 British troops deaths reported this month is surpassed only by 27 who died in March 2003, reflecting increasing violence in southern Iraq where they are based, particularly among Shiite groups vying for influence as Britain prepares to reduce its forces.
In the southern city of Basra, some five people were killed in an explosion Sunday. Iraqi police initially reported that it was a car bomb, but the British military said it appeared that the blast accidentally occurred while explosives and weapons were being moved.
The area is mainly Shiite and rarely sees the car bombs usually blamed on Sunni insurgents, although rival Shiite militias frequently clash and stage attacks.
On Monday, Iraqi commandos also detained a suspected Shiite militia leader linked to death squad activities against attacks against Western forces in the Basra area, according to a U.S. military statement.
The U.S. military also said a joint American-Iraqi raid that purportedly sparked clashes with supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday was aimed at capturing "high-value individuals" in the heavily Shiite district of Kazimiyah in northern Baghdad.
The military statement said one Iraqi soldier and eight gunmen were killed, while eight individuals were detained and later turned over to the Iraqi security forces. It added that none of the targeted individuals were captured as a result of this operation and all detained individuals were later released.
Hundreds of Shiites waving Iraqi flags and posters of al-Sadr and his late father rallied Monday outside a revered Shiite mosque in Kazimiyah to protest the raid as funerals were held for those killed.
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Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi and Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-24 10:56 GMT+08:00