Soldiers killed in Iraq

5 U.S.

6 militants suspected in the smuggling of explosives captured

May 19, 2007|By Ned Parker | Ned Parker,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- Five U.S. soldiers died in attacks across Iraq, and six militants were captured in northeast Baghdad who were suspected of smuggling roadside bombs from Iran into Iraq.

Meanwhile, a top Shiite political leader flew to the U.S. for medical tests. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who leads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, known until last week as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, suffers from high blood pressure. A week ago doctors recommended he get more thorough testing in the United States, a member of his party said.

Three of the most recent U.S. casualties occurred when an explosion ripped their vehicle in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. Diyala has a volatile mix of Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.

The area's senior U.S. commander told reporters this month that he needed more troops in Diyala, where they have been troubled by armor-piercing explosives, known as EFPs, or explosively formed projectiles, that the U.S. military charges are smuggled in from Iran.

The militants rounded up yesterday were thought to be part of a "secret cell" smuggling EFPs into Iraq, the military said.

In southwestern Baghdad, two U.S. soldiers died, and nine were wounded in attacks Thursday as they conducted operations in an area where they had been uncovering weapons and detaining suspected extremists. The military did not disclose details.

South of Baghdad, U.S. troops continued to search for three soldiers believed to have been abducted by an al-Qaida affiliate.

An estimated 4,000 U.S. forces and 2,000 Iraqi troops were on the hunt a week after the attack, which killed four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator.

The Defense Department announced the name yesterday of the fourth dead soldier in the ambush, whose body had been badly burnt. The Pentagon identified him as Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev. On the ground, officers vowed not to let up in their search.

"It is the same mission," said Lt. Col. Randy Martin, U.S. Army spokesman. "There is no letup or change. I don't see any scaling down of that effort."

In New York, ABC News announced that two of its Iraqi staffers were killed late Thursday in Baghdad while driving home from work.

Cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26, were stopped by two cars full of gunmen and forced to get out of their vehicle, ABC said. The two staffers were unaccounted for overnight, and their deaths were confirmed in the morning.

Five unidentified bodies were found in Babil province, just south of the dragnet for the missing Americans, police said.

A police officer was killed in Kirkuk, while 25 unidentified bodies with gunshot wounds were dumped around Baghdad, police said. The previous day, 30 corpses were found in the capital. Clashes erupted between police commandos and gunmen on Baghdad's airport road, a flash point for Sunni and Shiite extremists, leaving an officer dead, police said. A car bomb claimed the lives of two Iraqis in Baghdad, police said.

Ned Parker writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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