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U.S. military death toll for April rises above 100

U.S. military death toll for April rises above 100

Five U.S. troops died in weekend attacks, pushing the death toll past 100 in the deadliest month since December. A suicide bomber blew himself up Monday during a Shiite funeral north of Baghdad, the deadliest in a series of bombings and shootings that killed at least 102 people nationwide.
Thunderous explosions rocked central Baghdad late Monday, and witnesses reported seeing smoke rising from the U.S.-controlled Green Zone. Warning sirens sounded in the zone, but the U.S. military said it had no immediate information about damage or casualties.
All but one of the five latest U.S. deaths occurred last weekend in Baghdad, where the nearly 11-week security crackdown has put thousands more American soldiers on the streets _ making them targets for both Shiite and Sunni extremists.
In a statement Monday, the U.S. command said three American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb the day before in eastern Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier was killed Saturday by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad, the statement said.
A Marine died in combat Sunday in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital, the military said.
Those deaths brought the number of American service members killed in Iraq during April to 104 _ eight fewer than December's toll and the sixth highest figure for a single month since the war started in March 2003.
Last week, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, warned in Washington that "there is the very real possibility" of more combat in the coming months and "therefore, there could be more casualties."
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.
While American casualties are rising, U.S. officials say the Baghdad crackdown has reduced civilian deaths in the capital since the security operation was launched Feb. 14.
But figures compiled by The Associated Press from police reports show a rise in civilian casualties outside the capital, where extremists to refuge to avoid the Baghdad operation.
Police said 32 people were killed and 63 wounded when a suicide bomber struck the Shiite funeral in Khalis, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad. The bomber walked inside a tent filled with mourners and detonated a belt of explosives hidden beneath his clothes, police said.
"I saw panicked people running from outside the tent," said a mobile telephone dealer who was talking toward the tent when the bomber struck. "It was the most horrible scene I ever witnessed. I was shocked that somebody could commit this crime against people who were honoring a dead person."
The witness, who refused to give his name out of fears for his safety, said the bomber timed the attack for early evening, when large numbers of mourners usually arrive for meals provided by the family of the deceased.
Officials said the funeral was for a Shiite man who has about 20 relatives in the army and police. Four days ago, a suicide car bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a mostly Shiite town in a predominantly Sunni area. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.
Elsewhere, a tanker truck exploded near a restaurant just west of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, killing four people and wounding six, police said.
The attack occurred in an area where U.S.-backed Sunni sheiks and tribal leaders have begun turning against al-Qaida, forming the Anbar Salvation Council to drive religious zealots and foreign fighters from their area.
That has helped curb violence in Ramadi, once the most dangerous city in Iraq, but has triggered clashes for control of the vast desert area that borders Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
In a Web posting Monday, an al-Qaida front organization _ the Islamic State in Iraq _ announced it was preparing a "long-term war of attrition" in Anbar against the Americans and the U.S.-backed Sunni sheiks.
"The Marines do not confront the militants face-to-face, but they hide behind thieves and highway robbers," the group said, referring to the tribal alliance. "The mujahedeen are ongoing in their fights against the enemies of God."
At least 66 other people were killed or found dead nationwide Monday, police reported. They included 27 bullet-riddled bodies found in Baghdad, apparent victims of sectarian death squads.
On Sunday, Iran agreed to join the U.S. and other countries at a conference on Iraq this week, raising hopes the government in Tehran would help stabilize its neighbor and stem the flow of guns and bombs which the U.S. says the Iranians are sending to Shiite militias.
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."
Afterward, Iraqi officials expressed hope that the meeting in Egypt might produce an agreement to work to stabilize the country.
"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.
But in closed-door talks Sunday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Larijani bluntly told the Iraqis that the U.S. military presence poses "a serious danger to us" and "for that reason we are forced to deal with it."
"Iraq now is part of this danger," Larijani said, according to a senior Iraqi official familiar with the discussions. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about confidential talks.


Updated : 2021-05-11 22:14 GMT+08:00