November Off to Bloody Start in Iraq

The Associated Press
Friday, November 3, 2006; 2:08 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A blood-drenched October has passed into a violent early November as a motorcycle rigged with explosives ripped through a crowded Shiite market in Sadr City on Thursday and suspected Sunni insurgent gunmen killed a Shiite dean of Baghdad University.

On Friday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of three soldiers in Baghdad and a Marine in the western province of Anbar.

A brief statement said the three soldiers died Thursday when the vehicle they were riding in was struck by a roadside bomb at 2:15 p.m. in eastern Baghdad. It gave no other details.

Meanwhile, the attacks showed no signs of abating after at least 1,272 Iraqis were killed in the first full month of autumn and the 43rd month of the U.S. bid to quell violence and build democracy in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count. The figure is a minimum since many deaths go unreported, but the total is higher than any other month since the AP began keeping track in May 2005.

AP statistics also showed nearly twice as many Iraqi security forces died last month as U.S. forces _ 194 versus 106. The Interior Ministry said at least 119 Iraqi policemen were killed.

With shootings, bombings and abductions tearing apart Iraq three years after the U.S.-led invasion, the war in Iraq is the top issue for voters before next week's U.S. congressional elections.

The Iraqi president, visiting Paris, said Thursday all American forces could be gone from Iraq within three years.

"Two to three years are needed to build our security forces and say bye-bye to our friends," Jalal Talabani said. The president, a Kurd whose ethnic group owes its relative prosperity and independence in northern Iraq to the U.S. invasion, has repeatedly predicted an earlier departure for American forces than U.S. generals have.

Asked about Talabani's remarks, Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, said: "All parties agree on the desire to hand over control for security to the Iraqis as soon as possible."

Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed said their party will attempt to pass legislation to begin bringing some troops home immediately.

"We want to end the open-ended commitment of our troops, and we want to begin, at least by the end of the year, the reduction of American forces," Levin said.

At least 49 people were killed or found dead throughout Iraq on Thursday, including the seven killed when the motorcycle blew up in a crowded market in Baghdad's Sadr City district. At least 45 people were wounded in that attack, many of them seriously, police said.

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