Soldiers killed in Iraq fighting

5 U.S.

Gunmen kill 28 Iraqi police

October 27, 2006|By Louise Roug | Louise Roug,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Five American troops died during fighting in Anbar province, the U.S. military said yesterday, bringing to at least 96 the number killed this month - the bloodiest since October 2005. Meanwhile, American troops in the capital continued searching for a comrade believed to have been kidnapped earlier in the week.

Elsewhere, gunmen attacked Iraqi security forces north of the capital in Baqouba and outlying villages yesterday in what appeared to have been a coordinated strike against police positions. At least 28 police officers were killed and 10 wounded in the attacks. Up to 50 officers were missing, according to local authorities.

In Najaf, authorities closed the most sacred Shiite Muslim shrine in the country after a tip about explosives smuggled into the southern city. Owners were asked to close their shops, and cars were barred from the area around the Imam Ali shrine, police said.

A sailor assigned to 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Wednesday, the U.S. military said in a statement. More than one-third of the American deaths this month have occurred in Anbar, a poor and predominantly Sunni Arab province stretching from just outside Baghdad to the western border with Jordan.

The deadliest month for U.S. troops in the 3 1/2 -year conflict was November 2004, when American forces invaded the city of Fallujah in Anbar province. That month, 137 American troops were killed, 126 of them in combat, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks coalition casualties.

In October 2005, 96 U.S. military personnel were killed.

Violence in Iraq usually spikes during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting that just ended. At least 300 Iraqi soldiers were killed this year during the holy month, U.S. officials said.

Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said yesterday that there have been fewer killings in the capital during the past few days but provided no data. The bodies of seven Iraqi men were found yesterday in the capital. All had been handcuffed and shot in the head.

This week, American troops have flooded parts of Baghdad searching for the missing U.S. soldier, an Iraqi-American working as a translator for a reconstruction team. During a rare raid into Sadr City on Wednesday, troops heard that the soldier was being held at a nearby mosque and searched it. He was not there.

The soldier, who has not been named, allegedly was kidnapped while visiting a relative in Baghdad's Karada neighborhood during Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan, according to the military. He was last seen Monday afternoon in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone.

During a weekly news conference in the Green Zone, Caldwell acknowledged that increased checkpoints, roadblocks and U.S. troops on the streets of the capital taking part in the search might have helped reduce the number of killings in recent days.

But if Baghdad was relatively quiet yesterday, several battles raged north of the capital in troubled Diyala province.

Police from the town of Khan Bani Saad set out to raid the nearby village of Muradiya, searching for colleagues who had been kidnapped. Gunmen ambushed the police outside the village, and fierce fighting followed. A colonel and at least seven other police officers were killed. About 50 other police were missing, but it is unclear whether the officers fled or were kidnapped.

The ambush coincided with several other attacks against police stations in the area that left six police officers dead and 10 injured. Tribal warfare, kidnappings and killings by al-Qaida-affiliated groups and attacks by the Madhi Army, a Shiite Muslim militia, continue to plague the province.

A gunman was killed in a shootout with Iraqi soldiers raiding Khalis, a notorious trouble spot in Diyala on Wednesday, according to the U.S. military.

Last week, American forces had to intervene when sectarian fighting broke out in the city of Balad in the province.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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