Eight U.S., Four British Soldiers Die in Scattered Attacks in Iraq

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By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 6, 2007

BAGHDAD, April 5 -- Eight U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq in shootings and bombings over the past three days, and four British soldiers and an interpreter died in an attack Thursday in the southern city of Basra, according to American and British officials.

Also Thursday, a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter carrying nine people made a hard landing south of Baghdad. Four of the passengers were injured, including two treated for minor smoke inhalation, said Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Iraq. An investigation had not determined whether the Black Hawk had been shot at or experienced other difficulties, she said.

The U.S. military deaths, from roadside bombs and small-arms fire, were scattered in and around Baghdad. One U.S. soldier was shot to death Tuesday while patrolling in eastern Baghdad, parts of which are strongholds for Shiite militiamen. Another soldier was killed and a third was wounded that day in small-arms fire while on foot patrol in the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Four soldiers were killed and four others were wounded Wednesday in two roadside bomb attacks, one in Baghdad and one on the northern outskirts of the city, the military said. Another soldier died from gunfire while on a reconnaissance patrol in eastern Baghdad.

An eighth soldier was killed and two were injured when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

The rate at which U.S. service members are dying in Iraq has remained fairly constant in recent months, even with heightened security measures imposed by the Baghdad security plan and an influx of thousands of troops to the capital. At least 80 U.S. troops were killed in each of the first three months of this year, while 18 Americans were killed in the first four days of April, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent Web site.

The British soldiers killed Thursday were traveling in a Warrior infantry vehicle at 2:20 a.m. in a rural area west of Basra, in southern Iraq, when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, said Lt. Col. Kevin Stratford-Wright, a British military spokesman. The unit had fought off an earlier attack, probably killing at least one gunman, he said.

Five of the eight people in the vehicle were killed in the bombing, he said, and one was seriously injured. British authorities were trying to determine the nationality of the slain interpreter.

Two other British soldiers were shot to death earlier this week, raising to 140 the number of British soldiers who have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

"Clearly we're all very upset and grieving four of our soldiers," Stratford-Wright said. "But whatever we might feel and grieve as individuals, we just have to get on with the job we have been given."

The night mission was a routine patrol intended to disrupt the activity of the Shiite militiamen who "plague our existence and indeed the existence of the Basra residents," Stratford-Wright said. "We're constantly after these people."

In the restive province of Anbar in western Iraq, U.S.-led troops killed three civilians -- a child, a man and a woman -- while responding to an attack in the violent provincial capital of Ramadi late Tuesday night, said 1st Lt. Shawn Mercer, a U.S. military spokesman.

After U.S. troops came under fire, American aircraft attacked five buildings with "precision guided munitions," he said. In addition to the three deaths, one person identified as an "enemy fighter" was wounded and captured, Mercer said.

Across Baghdad, police found the bodies of 10 people. All were handcuffed and had been shot in the head and the chest, according to Brig. Sultan Salman Sultan of the Interior Ministry.

Also Thursday, the body of Khamail Khalaf, an Iraqi journalist for Radio Free Iraq, was found in western Baghdad, according to a statement from her employer, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Khalaf, who disappeared Tuesday, had been shot in the head, officials said. The mother of three girls had worked for Radio Free Iraq since 2004, reporting on social and cultural life in the country, the statement said.

At least 97 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war; 76 were Iraqi citizens, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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