Soldiers and 1 sailor killed in Iraq in past 2 days

4 U.S.

Deaths result from latest in stepped-up attacks by insurgents


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Four American soldiers and a sailor were killed over the past two days in Iraq, the U.S. military announced yesterday, the latest in a series of stepped-up attacks over the past two months.

A roadside bomb killed the soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter northwest of Baghdad. The sailor died in Anbar province, west of the capital, a day earlier.

U.S. service members have been dying at the rate of nearly three per day in May, an increase over late 2005 and early this year, but not as severe as the death toll during some periods in the Iraq war.

Military leaders have described the increased violence against Americans and Iraqis as an attempt by insurgents to derail the government that Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki is expected to announce tomorrow.

The U.S. military's new chief spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, urged news media to focus on improving participation by Iraqis in the nation's security. He said Iraqis have been phoning tips to a government hot line at a record clip, helping to prevent even more violence.

Caldwell said he believed the increase in calls did not reflect an increase in violence but a feeling by Iraqis that they "are tired of the violence and they realize there is somebody who will show up and take some action." The general described recent raids by U.S. and Iraqi forces, one leading to the seizure of a weapons cache on the grounds of a Baghdad mosque and the other leading to the capture of a cell leader responsible for making car bombs.

The U.S. military reported two other successes yesterday, saying they killed insurgents who had been launching attacks from an abandoned train station in Ramadi and prevented a roadside bombing and ambush in Mosul, killing three more and wounding 10.

One of the first tasks for al-Maliki and his new government will be to recommend when Iraqi military and police units are ready to assume responsibility for the nation's security from U.S. forces.

The governor of Anbar province made his own recommendation yesterday, saying he wants the Americans to withdraw from Ramadi and other cities.

Gov. Mamoun Rashid al-Alwani said U.S. forces had been unable to bring stability to a region racked by a potent Sunni Arab insurgency. Anbar residents, he said, "have suffered a lot because of the military operations." American commanders did not immediately respond to al-Alwani's recommendation.

Violence and intimidation against Iraqis, civilian and uniformed, continued yesterday.

Fifteen members of Iraq's tae kwon do team were kidnapped on the highway between Fallujah and Ramadi. A $100,000 ransom was demanded for the athletes, who were returning from a competition in Jordan, an Olympic Committee spokesman said.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, three people were killed, including a political activist and a teacher and student at a vocational school. In Basra, police Chief Hassan Suwadi escaped an assassination attempt near his home. Suwadi has been locked in a dispute with the governor of that region, who accused him of not doing enough to prevent attacks.

Baghdad remained the focal point of the deadliest violence. Two roadside bombs apparently aimed at a police convoy exploded in the Waziriya area during the morning rush, killing seven. On the south side of the capital, insurgents ambushed a minivan and killed six, authorities said.

James Rainey writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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