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Four U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi Judge Die in Attacks

Times Staff Writer

Insurgents in Iraq killed four American soldiers and assassinated a Baghdad judge Thursday while beleaguered government officials and U.S. military leaders worked to shift attention from the violence to the ongoing efforts to rebuild the country.

The soldiers died when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the city of Samarra, about 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, according to the U.S. military.

The attack occurred on a dirt road in the southern section of the city, which has become a frequent focus of violence in the insurgency. Military officials did not provide further details Thursday.

American military deaths in the Iraq theater since the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion totaled 1,862 as of Thursday, and there had been 63 U.S. fatalities this month, already surpassing by nine July’s total, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

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Also on Thursday, Jasim Waheeb, an investigative judge from a Baghdad appellate court, and his driver were shot to death in the capital’s Dora neighborhood less than two miles from the heavily protected Green Zone, which is home to the Iraqi government.

Waheeb, described as a man without strong sectarian affiliations, was assassinated by unknown gunmen while leaving his home, according to the Interior Ministry.

“I’m very upset,” said Najat Zabaidi, a Baghdad lawyer who knew Waheeb and blamed the killing on “those terrorists who want to sabotage the country.”

West of the capital, the governor of troubled Al Anbar province escaped injury when gunmen attacked local leaders who were meeting at a mosque in the city of Ramadi to discuss the efforts to write a new national constitution.

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Nine people were injured in the attack, four from the Sunni Waqf, or religious endowment, and five guards, the Interior Ministry said.

The violence came a day after a series of car bombings killed 43 people in what appeared to be a targeted attack on Shiite Muslims designed to foment sectarian strife in the country.

In the Green Zone on Thursday, leading spokesmen for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government presented what they said were positive developments in the country.

“We believe we are on the right glide path,” Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff in Iraq, said as he ticked off reconstruction projects, tallied insurgents and weapons captured, and discussed a new feature entitled “Successes This Week in Iraq,” which appears on a military website.

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The site, assembled by the U.S. Central Command and appearing at www.centcom.mil, touts refurbished schools, medical screenings for children, a new monument to Iraqi soldiers and a new 250-officer police station in Samarra.

However, Iraqi spokesman Laith Kubba complained his government was having a hard time getting that message out.

Kubba said his information office could field just 20 or 30 people, while the Ministry of Information under former leader Saddam Hussein had 5,000 employees.

“No one knows when we succeed,” Kubba said. “Everyone knows when we fail.”

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Times staff writers Edmund Sanders, Caesar Ahmed and Zainab Hussein contributed to this report.


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