U.S. brigade joins buildup in Baghdad

Addition of troops aimed at reducing sectarian violence

May 03, 2007|By Chris Kraul | Chris Kraul,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Baghdad -- A brigade of 3,700 U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad this week, part of the Bush administration's troop buildup aimed at quelling sectarian violence.

The soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, Wash., are part of a troop buildup ordered by President Bush in January that is expected to amount to 28,500 combat and support personnel.

The last combat brigade of 3,700 troops is due by late this month. Once complete, the buildup will push allied forces, predominantly from the United States, to 160,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Three soldiers died yesterday in two explosions, the U.S. military reported. A soldier died of her wounds shortly after an explosive device detonated under her vehicle in western Baghdad, and two other soldiers were killed and two wounded in a roadside bomb attack in southern Baghdad, the military reported.

A suicide car bomber struck in the main Shiite district of the capital yesterday, killing at least nine people.

At least 85 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide, police reported. They included eight people who lost their lives when a roadside bomb destroyed their minibus about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

The suicide attack occurred at dusk near a police station in Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia. Three policemen and six civilians were killed and 34 people were wounded, police said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox told reporters in a weekly briefing today 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, staffed by as many as 150 Iraqi army and police with U.S. troops and trainers, are a key element of U.S. Army Gen David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy in the capital.

But nearly 4,000 residents of Kamaliyah demonstrated yesterday against the opening of a security station in their eastern Baghdad neighborhood, saying the bases attract bombings by insurgents. Opponents add that troops too often respond to the bombs by firing indiscriminately at passers-by.

The U.S. military reported yesterday that a group of sheiks in Diyala province, east of Baghdad, had agreed to a truce among themselves and promised to fight al-Qaida and Sunni Arab insurgent groups in the province. A similar accord was reached by sheiks in Anbar province last month.

Also, police uncovered two caches of weapons in eastern Baghdad, including 400 pounds of C-4 explosives, 85 sets of body armor, nine pairs of night-vision goggles and 120 Iranian-made assault rifles.

Chris Kraul writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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