Friday, January 06, 2006

11 U.S. Troops Killed in One Day in Iraq


Yahoo! News
11 U.S. Troops Killed in One Day in Iraq

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer

The U.S. military said Friday that six more American troops died in the recent surge of violence in Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of U.S. troops slain on the same day.

About 5,000 Shiites, meanwhile, rallied in Baghdad to protest the bloodshed and denounce what they said was American backing of some Sunni politicians who have supported — or at least failed to condemn — insurgent groups in order to bring them into a broad-based government.

In new violence Friday, a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol in Baghdad, killing one officer, Col. Noori Ashur said.

Elsewhere, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw held talks in southern Iraq with local officials on forming a broad-based coalition government.

A U.S. Marine and soldier died in Thursday's attack by a suicide bomber who infiltrated a line of police recruits in Ramadi, killing at least 58 and wounding dozens. Two soldiers were also killed in the Baghdad area when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, the military said Friday.

In addition, two U.S. Marines were killed by separate small arms attacks while conducting combat operations in Fallujah, the military said.

The military had previously announced the deaths of five soldiers hit by a roadside bomb south of Karbala. The attack came minutes before a second suicide bomber struck Shiite pilgrims in that city, killing 63.

It was the fourth-deadliest day in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with at least 136 total deaths, including the U.S. troops.

The 11 U.S. deaths were the most in a single day since 11 Americans were killed on Dec. 1. On that day, 10 Marines were killed by buried bombs as they gathered for a promotion ceremony in an abandoned flour mill in Fallujah, and one soldier was killed in Ramadi.

At least 2,194 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

Ball bearings from the suicide attacker's vest lay scattered on the earth next to Shiite Islam's holiest shrine in Iraq after the Karbala attack.

In the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, 70 miles west of the capital, Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said police recruits got back in line to continue the screening process after a suicide bomber attacked. They were apparently desperate for a relatively well-paying job in the impoverished area.

Marine Maj. Gen. Stephen Johnson, commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq, said he suspects al-Qaida in Iraq carried out the Ramadi attack, although he has no proof.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, denounced the violence as a bid to derail the political process at a time when progress was being made toward a government that would include Sunni Arabs and thus possibly weaken the insurgency.

A spokesman for the U.S. military said insurgents are becoming more desperate as the democratic process increasingly takes hold.

"The common people of Iraq are losing their tolerance for the insurgents and terrorists among them, turning in the enemy among them at an increasing rate," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson. "We aren't past the dangers that threaten progress and there will be more tragedies ahead of us."

At the protest rally, the Shiites demonstrated in Baghdad's Sadr City slum against a spree of attacks and U.S. policy, chanting slogans against U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and moderate Sunni Arab leaders such as Adnan al-Dulaimi.

Most of their ire was directed at hard-liners such as Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, who complained of widespread fraud in the Dec. 15 elections.

Khalilzad has urged Iraq's political and religious groups to form a coalition. They include the three top vote-getters and the main Shiite United Iraqi Alliance — leading in results following the elections — al-Dulaimi's main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, and a Kurdish coalition.

Khalilzad also said last month that at least 120 abused prisoners were found in two detention facilities run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry — bolstering complaints by Sunni Arabs about abuse and torture by Interior Ministry security forces.

Shiite organization have complained that the U.S. Embassy and the coalition have placed restrictions on Defense and Interior Ministry forces, which are dominated by Shiites.

Straw held "postelection discussions" in southern Iraq with Basra's governor, members of the city's ruling council, and newly elected national legislators, a British Foreign Ministry spokesman said in London.

Straw's unannounced visit was an "opportune time to get an up-to-date report on what's happening with the political discussions and the security situation" in the four provinces under British responsibility, according to the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with Foreign Ministry protocol.

The British Broadcasting Corp. said Straw did not plan to meet the 8,000 British troops in southern Iraq but that he would be discussing their eventual withdrawal.

Straw told the BBC the next two or three months would be "fundamental" to the future of Iraq. "If we get it right, it will be optimistic," he said. If the coalition gets it wrong, it could would create a "serious problem," he said.

Iraq's main Shiite religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, issued a veiled threat to Sunnis supporting the insurgency that its patience was wearing thin.

But in a chord struck by several politicians, the party also condemned policies it said were imposed by the U.S.-led coalition that were hampering Iraqi security forces' counterterrorism work. The Americans have increased their oversight of Shiite-dominated forces following widespread charges of abuse, especially of Sunni detainees.

"Not allowing these two ministries to do their job means exposing helpless Iraqis to ruthless terrorists," SCIRI said. "They should know that the patience of our people will not last for a long time with these sectarian dirty crimes."

The warning to Sunnis carried the possibility of using militias like the Badr Brigade, the former military wing of SCIRI, to take vengeance on Sunni supporters of insurgents.

The three main attacks Thursday all took place within an hour. The death toll was the largest single-day total since Sept. 14, when 162 died.

The U.S. Embassy said it was appalled by the attacks. "This terror aims simply to kill innocent Iraqis and provoke further conflict between them," the embassy said.

The Karbala bomber detonated a vest stuffed with about 18 pounds of explosives and several hand grenades, Col. Razaq al-Taie said.

The bombing brought back memories of the deadliest civilian attack in Iraq since the war began. On March 2, 2004, coordinated blasts from suicide bombers, mortars and planted explosives exploded near shrines in Karbala and Baghdad, killing at least 181 people. Since then, however, Karbala had been relatively free of violence.