A brigade of 3,700 U.S. Army troops arrived in Baghdad this week, part of the Bush administration’s troop buildup aimed at quelling sectarian violence.
The soldiers are with the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Ft. Lewis, Wash.
The last combat brigade of 3,700 troops is due by late May, completing the deployment ordered in January by President Bush that is expected to amount to 28,500 combat and support personnel. Once complete, the buildup will push allied forces, predominantly from the United States, to 160,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Three soldiers died Wednesday in two explosions, the U.S. military reported. One died shortly after an explosive device detonated under her vehicle in west Baghdad, and two were killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing in south Baghdad, the military reported.
The deaths brought U.S. fatalities to 3,355 since the war began in March 2003, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks casualties in the war.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox told reporters Wednesday in a weekly briefing that the success of the troop buildup will not be known until late summer at the earliest. He said 57 “joint security stations” have been set up in Baghdad neighborhoods since February. The mini-bases, each staffed by as many as 150 Iraqi soldiers and police officers with U.S. soldiers and trainers, are a key element of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy in the capital.
But nearly 4,000 residents of Kamaliya demonstrated Wednesday against the opening of a security station in their east Baghdad neighborhood, saying the bases attract bombings by insurgents. Opponents added that troops often respond to the bombings by firing indiscriminately at passersby.
The U.S. military reported that a group of sheiks in Diyala province, east of Baghdad, had agreed to a truce among themselves and promised to fight Al Qaeda and Sunni Arab insurgent groups in the province. A similar accord was reached last month by sheiks in Al Anbar province.
Also, police uncovered two caches of weapons in east Baghdad, including 400 pounds of C-4 explosive, 85 sets of body armor, nine pairs of night-vision goggles, and 120 Iranian-made assault rifles.
At least eight people were killed and two dozen wounded by mortar rounds Wednesday in Baghdad and Hillah, police said.
Interior Ministry sources said 30 unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad, all men killed by gunshots. A suicide bomber killed four people and injured 25 in the Sadr City neighborhood of the capital.
Times staff writers Raheem Salman and Saif Hameed contributed to this report.