8 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq Bomb Attacks

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 7, 2007

BAGHDAD, May 6 -- Eight American soldiers were killed in roadside bomb attacks Sunday, one of the highest single-day death tolls this year. They were among 12 U.S. service members whose deaths were announced on a day when car bombs killed scores of Iraqis across the country, threatening to deepen sectarian tensions.

A senior U.S. commander said Sunday that the military was bracing for a rise in the casualty rate in the coming months, as an ongoing security offensive attempts to tame the devastating violence and stabilize Baghdad.

"All of us believe that in the next 90 days, you'll probably see an increase in American casualties because we are taking the fight to the enemy," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Army's Task Force Marne, told reporters Sunday. "This is the only way we can win the fight."

Even as insurgents take aim at U.S. troops, they have stepped up their attacks on so-called soft targets, especially in Shiite areas of Baghdad, in an apparent attempt to stoke sectarian warfare. In the deadliest such attack Sunday, a car bomb explosion tore through one of the capital's biggest markets at midday, killing 42 people, police said. The blast, in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bayaa, ravaged buildings, scorched vehicles and injured at least 67 people, police said.

Under the new counterinsurgency plan, U.S. soldiers increasingly live in and patrol hostile parts of Baghdad and surrounding areas such as volatile Diyala province, where hundreds of fighters have fled to escape the offensive. The military's goal is to wrest control of neighborhoods and towns from insurgents and militias by winning the trust of and getting information from residents.

But the strategy has multiplied the risks to U.S. soldiers. Insurgents are proving resilient and are drawing on their deep knowledge of the land and sophisticated tactics to wage a guerrilla war with sniper and suicide attacks and the roadside bombings that kill more Americans in Iraq than any other form of violence.

Lynch said his forces were more frequently encountering powerful roadside bombs called "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, which U.S. officials say are of Iranian origin and can punch through the armor of Humvees. Other roadside bombs are buried so deep in the ground that they are difficult to find even with high-tech devices, he said.

While U.S. military officials view EFPs as a weapon of Shiite extremists, Lynch said they were also turning up in the hands of Sunni insurgents.

"The enemy dominates the terrain," he said. "He has the opportunities to set ambushes. He has the opportunity to set traps."

"You got a thinking enemy out there," Lynch added. "As soon we do something to prove our capability, he does something to defeat our capability. It is a continual cycle. That's why I will never rest with our up-armored Humvees or our technology."

Still, Lynch predicted that by August or September, U.S. forces would have "a decisive effect on enemy formations."

Lynch said he did not feel the same way about Iraq's political process. "I don't see there will be significant progress on the government side between now and fall," he said. "You can't just build a government overnight."

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