7 troops die in Iraq, 4 on single patrol
U.S. military officials announced the deaths of seven American troops Sunday, and at least seven Iraqis were killed and 26 injured in a car bombing, as the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq neared.
Four of the soldiers died in west Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated during their patrol Saturday. A Marine was killed in combat in Al Anbar province on Saturday, and a soldier was killed on foot patrol Friday by a roadside bomb in south Baghdad. A soldier’s noncombat death Saturday is under investigation, the military said.
The military declined to release details about the incidents. The deaths brought the U.S. military toll to 3,218 since the invasion began on March 20, 2003, according to icasualties.org.
Scattered violence was reported Sunday in the capital and beyond.
A month-old security crackdown has helped reduce death squad killings attributed mainly to Shiite Muslim militias. Police reported finding five bodies bearing bullet wounds around Baghdad on Sunday, far fewer than on many days before the new plan took effect. But it has not stopped the car bombings and mass-casualty suicide attacks that are a hallmark of Sunni Arab insurgents. Stemming such violence is a much more difficult task that depends on intelligence from informants, which enables security forces to root out bomb factories and insurgent strongholds.
The car bomb, in northeast Baghdad, exploded in a crowded area where Shiites were preparing food for sunset prayers. Witnesses said the bomber had to park across the street, which limited the bloodshed because he could not get closer to the crowd.
“Once the explosion took place we ran quickly toward the site,” said Hatim Khudair, 40, who owns a stand that sells stationery and children’s toys. “We started recovering the injured and the dead. Most of the injured were suffering from burns, others from burns and shrapnel. There were blood pools on the ground, debris, ashes.”
Insurgents also attacked the Shorja market in east Baghdad, killing two people with grenades they hurled from apartment buildings across the street. Markets have been a frequent target in Baghdad because of the large crowds they draw, and U.S. officials say they are in the process of making them more difficult to attack. Shorja was the site of a double car bombing in February that killed more than 70 and injured more than 160; after that, officials restricted it to foot traffic.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi military spokesman said in a news conference Sunday that traces of explosives were found in four cars belonging to Dhafir Ani, a prominent member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament. Brig. Gen. Qassim Musawi also said that 65 guns were found, and that one of seven guards initially detained was still being held.
Ani disputed the accusations in an interview on the satellite news channel Al Arabiya on Sunday night, saying his cars had recently been to the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad and no explosives had been detected there. He said that his guards had been tortured during questioning and that all of the guns were licensed.
Separately, a statement Sunday attributed to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr called on Muslims to stop killing one another.
“No one is better than another,” it said. “These are acts that would not please God and his prophet.”
In Fallouja, insurgents blew up a building that the Iraqi army was using as an observation post, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding 11.
Gunmen in a car in Baghdad killed one person and wounded three at Rusafi Square, not far from the Mutanabi Street book-mart bombing that killed 30 people this month.
Three children were hurt when their house in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Jihad was struck by a mortar round. Earlier in the morning, a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police near Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University killed two people, one of them a civilian, and injured five; and mortar fire in the Fadhil neighborhood of central Baghdad killed one.
Times staff writers Saif Hameed, Raheem Salman, Suhail Ahmad and Zeena Kareem contributed to this report, as well as special correspondents in Baghdad and Fallouja.