Tuesday, October 24, 2006

U.S. troop deaths in Iraq reach 87 for October

McClatchy Newspapers
U.S. troop deaths in Iraq reach 87 for October
By Jay Price and Huda Ahmed

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military on Monday announced the deaths of two more American soldiers and a Marine on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the total of U.S. troops killed over the weekend to 12.

It also announced the death of a civilian contractor who had been training Iraqi police.

The deaths raised the toll of American military dead in Iraq so far this month to 87, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks coalition casualties in Iraq. All but four were killed in action, making October the worst month for U.S. combat deaths since November 2004.

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have said the high toll is partly due to an expected uptick in violence linked to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is just ending. Traditionally, attacks have risen about 20 percent during Ramadan, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said earlier this month.

Also, many of the troops were killed in Baghdad, where a major neighborhood-by-neighborhood operation aimed at reducing sectarian killing has exposed more service members to attack. The military appears to be reconsidering that offensive. Last week Caldwell said it hadn't been as effective as American officials had hoped.

One soldier was killed about 5 p.m. Sunday in western Baghdad when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle, according to a Department of Defense news release. His name and those of others killed over the weekend haven't been released.

Another soldier was killed southwest of Baghdad when his patrol came under small-arms fire. The Marine was killed Saturday during combat operations in Anbar province, west of the capital.

The police liaison officer was killed and four American soldiers were wounded just before noon Sunday when an improvised bomb struck their vehicle on the eastern side of the city.

Virginia-based Dyncorp, which is under U.S. contracts to provide police training in Iraq and Afghanistan, had lost four trainers earlier this year to attacks in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, according to its Web site.

In Baghdad, the violence against civilians and Iraqi security forces continued Monday. Seven Iraqi police officers and two civilians were killed in three homemade-bomb attacks across the city, police said. At least 12 officers and two civilians were injured.

A hairdresser was killed when gunmen stormed into her shop in the Zayonah district around 10 a.m. Hairdressers long have been a target of Muslim extremists in Iraq.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman announced a curfew Monday morning in the southern city of Amarah after the beheaded body of a leader of the powerful Mahdi Army militia was discovered.

The man had been abducted Thursday, apparently in retaliation for the killing of a police intelligence official.

A resident of the city, though, said a local council had canceled the curfew and people were moving around on the streets. Still, two police officers were killed in the city Monday and security forces there were tense, Amarah resident Faeq Abu Forat said.

A police spokesman in Diyala said that 10 people, including seven police officers in civilian clothes, were assassinated in a grove of trees close to Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad.

The spokesman also said a policeman was killed in west Baqouba as terrorist groups burned down 10 stores before the dawn prayer.

The U.S. military reported killing five insurgents Monday morning south of the troubled town of Balad, north of the capital, one of them as American troops approached a suspected terrorist hideout and four more when a bomb destroyed the building.