Roadside attacks on rise


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Warning against even more violence in advance of December elections, an American military official in Baghdad released figures yesterday showing roadside bomb attacks have risen sharply since the spring, including nearly 2,100 such blasts in the past two months.

There were 1,029 explosions in October, helping to make it the bloodiest month for U.S. troops since January, with at least 96 deaths.

In the first three days of this month, at least eight members of the U.S. military were killed, five of those by roadside explosives, according to the military.

One soldier assigned to the 43rd Military Police Brigade was killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb during combat near Baqubah north of Baghdad, the military announced yesterday. Another soldier assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) was killed during combat Tuesday in Ramadi, west of the capital, also by a roadside blast, the military said.

"We're fighting our way to the elections," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch at a news conference in Baghdad, referring to December's balloting for the Iraqi National Assembly. "The number of operations is going to increase; the number of attacks against coalition force members, Iraqi security force members, innocent Iraqi civilians is going to increase as well, and we will continue to fight right up to the elections."

Lynch said U.S. and Iraqi forces are becoming more adept at detecting roadside bombs, but that guerrillas are planting explosives in greater numbers than in the past. The insurgents also are using more sophisticated explosives and technology, some of which is smuggled in from neighboring countries, he said.

There were also 1,029 roadside bomb attacks in August and 1,044 in September. In the spring, the number of such attacks was about 700 a month.

Iraqi police officials, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday that employees at the Rustamiya sewage recycling plant in southeastern Baghdad found the bodies of 11 people, some of them beheaded and thrown into the large reservoirs.

At the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early October, militants called for increased attacks against American and Iraqi forces. Yesterday, al-Qaida in Iraq issued a string of statements, including threats to kill two Moroccan Embassy employees who have been missing since late last month.

The militant group also announced the kidnapping of political candidate Majda Yousif Sail and her husband in the troubled Dora neighborhood in Baghdad, and claimed responsibility for downing a U.S. helicopter in the western Al Anbar province Wednesday, killing two Marines.

"They want to show that they still have the ability to do things of that nature, whether they did it or not," said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Boylan of the claim, adding that the cause of the crash was under investigation.

The Internet postings, which surfaced on a Web site previously used by insurgents linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, could not be verified.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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