Truck Bombing Damages Bridge in Western Iraq

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By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 2, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 1 -- A dump truck laden with explosives detonated on a bridge over the Euphrates River on Sunday, the latest in a series of attacks targeting Iraq's bridge network.

The 3 p.m. suicide bombing damaged a large section of the bridge, which is along the main road north of Ramadi in the western province of Anbar. Two civilians were injured and evacuated to a hospital, according to U.S. military officials.

Since April, when bombers destroyed a large portion of Baghdad's historic Sarafiya bridge over the Tigris River, attackers have systematically taken out bridges in and around the capital, clogging traffic and isolating neighborhoods. In early June, insurgents damaged the Sarha bridge, about 100 miles from Baghdad on a main route to northern Iraq.

After the explosion Sunday, cars were still able to travel on what is one of the major thoroughfares through Anbar to Iraq's border with Jordan.

An hour earlier, another suicide attack involving a dump truck targeted a police checkpoint in Fallujah, also in Anbar. Police first tried to get the truck to pull over, then "engaged the truck causing it to detonate," 2nd Lt. Roger Hollenbeck, a U.S. Marine spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The blast killed one police officer and injured four, he said.

Also Sunday, there were reports that the number of Iraqi civilians killed in June dropped by more than one-third from May, at a time of operations by the full complement of additional U.S. troops.

News services reported that 1,227 civilians died violently in June, a 36 percent decrease from May and the lowest monthly total since the Baghdad security plan started in mid-February. The figure was provided by the Iraqi ministries of interior, defense and health, according to the news services. Iraqi state television reported the same death toll.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Brig. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, said that he did not know whether the death toll was correct and that no one from the Interior Ministry was authorized to release fatality figures.

At least 101 U.S. troops were killed in June, the third consecutive month in which American casualties exceeded 100, making it the highest quarterly death toll since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to iCasualties.org, an independent Web site.

[Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said on Monday, according to Reuters news service. The military said one soldier was killed by small-arms fire. The second was killed by gunfire that followed a roadside bomb attack on his patrol.]

Establishing the number of civilians killed in Iraq is difficult because there is no reliable or transparent system to track the figures. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq had been providing periodic statistics on civilian casualties but did not include death tolls in its last human rights report in April because the Iraqi government failed to provide them.

"We have no way of determining the veracity of these figures," said Said Arikat, a U.N. spokesman in Baghdad. "We call on the government to release those figures to us. I think it's important for Iraq and important for the government of Iraq."

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.


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