Pentagon: 300 Iraqi Troops Killed in April
Thursday, May 3, 2007; 5:56 PM
April was the deadliest month of the year for U.S. service members in Iraq, but it was an even grimmer month for Iraqi security forces, a high-ranking Pentagon official said this afternoon.
"I'd like to also express my condolences to the Iraqi people," said Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy operations director for the Joints Chiefs of Staff. "The Iraqis sustained over 300 Iraqi security force losses in the month of April."
"April was a tough month in Iraq," Wiggins added.
The spike in military deaths is a reminder that "coalition and Iraqi security forces are the primary target for attacks," Wiggins said at a briefing for Pentagon reporters. "This is a consistent trend. The coalition is the target for every two out of three attacks."
Iraqi civilians have sustained higher numbers of casualties than U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Wiggins said he did not have data on the number of Iraqi civilians killed in April. But in March, a total of 2,762 Iraqi civilians and policemen were killed, down 4 percent from the previous month, when 2,864 were killed.
Even so, Wiggins said U.S. forces are making "steady progress" in stabilizing the war-ravaged country, where more than 3,250 American service members have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2003.
The American troop surge underway in Baghdad is "paying off," he said, by sending combat brigades to neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital. Iraqis are tipping off U.S. forces to the locations of enemy weapons caches, he said.
"It's not often flashy, but it's the sort of progress that can make a difference over time," Wiggins said, "similar to the hard-nose football game, three yards at a time, one first down at a time."
Sixty percent of U.S. service members are being killed by improvised explosive devices, Wiggins told reporters. And the number of IED attacks against Iraqi civilians is rising, he added.
"Innocent Iraqi people in the markets, mosques and even at funerals are targeted," he said. "As you know, these attacks kill scores of innocent people trying to move about during the normal course of their daily lives.
"We haven't solved this yet, but this it a top priority."
Wiggins said the IED attackers have ties to Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps charged with Iran's clandestine foreign operations. The Quds Force, in turn, has ties to the Hezbollah, Hamas and other militant groups, as well as to Iraqi political movements that the United States has supported.
"We know that they're involved," Wiggins said, referring to the Quds Force, "whether training those folks in IED emplacement or providing the expertise."