8 U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Die in Vehicle Wrecks; Another Killed in North

By Megan Greenwell and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BAGHDAD, Sept. 10 -- Nine U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, the military announced Monday, including seven who died in a vehicle accident in northwestern Baghdad.

The accident occurred early Monday when an armored truck drove off a raised highway in the Shula area, said Lt. Col. Steven Miska, a deputy brigade commander. Miska said he believed a tire blowout and possibly another mechanical failure caused the driver to lose control.

"The vehicle went off a raised highway with all the soldiers in the back of it," he said. "There was no enemy contact involved at the time; it was strictly an accident."

At the time of the crash, the soldiers were returning from a raid against militiamen and were transporting detainees. Two of the detainees died in the crash and another was injured, he said. Eleven U.S. soldiers also were injured, a military statement said.

One soldier was killed when his vehicle overturned and caught fire east of Baghdad on Monday, the military announced. Another died of injuries from rocket fire in the northern city of Kirkuk while on patrol Sunday.

U.S. military officers said Monday that the Pentagon plans to build a base near the Iran-Iraq border in an effort to stop the flow of Iranian weapons to Shiite militias.

The base will house four or five U.S. military border enforcement teams, according to Maj. Alayne Conway, a spokeswoman for Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. troops in central Iraq. It will be located in Wasit province, about four miles from the border, Conway said.

The troops will aim to stop explosively formed penetrators, a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb, and other munitions from crossing the Iranian border. The military also will construct fortified checkpoints along the major highways between Iran and eastern Iraq to search vehicles, and will install X-ray machines and explosives detectors at the official border crossing.

News of the plan, first reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal, comes after several months of accusations by U.S. commanders that Iran has been providing weapons, funds and training to Shiite gunmen battling U.S. troops and Iraqi Sunnis. Iran denies the allegations, and critics -- including some U.S. intelligence analysts -- note that the military has provided no concrete evidence of such a link.

Meanwhile, in an address to parliament, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that his government had prevented Iraq from descending into a civil war but that the country's security forces are not ready to maintain security without U.S. assistance.

"There have been tangible improvements in security recently in Baghdad and the provinces, but it is not enough," he said. "Despite the security improvements, we still need more effort and time in order for our armed forces to be able to take over security in all Iraqi provinces."

Also on Monday, a truck bomb killed 10 people and wounded 60 in northern Iraq, police said. The suicide bomber targeted the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party, the political party of Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Iraqi army spokesman Muhammad Chiyad said guards in front of the party's compound opened fire on the truck as it approached. The bomber was able to detonate explosives on the truck, but further casualties were prevented because the truck was unable to strike the building, Chiyad said.

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.

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