Five U.S. Soldiers Are Killed When Convoy Is Hit in Mosul

An Iraqi man gestures next to a coffin in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 28, 2008. The coffin was on top a mini bus for a funeral ceremony when a roadside bomb missed a police patrol in eastern Baghdad but hit the mini bus, killing three passengers and injuring five others, police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
An Iraqi man gestures next to a coffin in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 28, 2008. The coffin was on top a mini bus for a funeral ceremony when a roadside bomb missed a police patrol in eastern Baghdad but hit the mini bus, killing three passengers and injuring five others, police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Karim Kadim - AP)

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By Joshua Partlow and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

BAGHDAD, Jan. 28 -- An American military convoy came under a barrage of gunfire in the northern city of Mosul on Monday and then was hit by a roadside bomb that killed five U.S. soldiers. It was a particularly bloody day for the U.S. military in a city that has become a gathering point for the Sunni insurgency, and where Iraq's prime minister vowed to have the "final" battle with the group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The joint patrol of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers was attacked at about 12:40 p.m. in the Somer neighborhood of southeastern Mosul, when insurgents began shooting at the convoy from a mosque. Amid the gunfire, a roadside bomb exploded, killing the five soldiers, said Maj. Gary Dangerfield, a U.S. military spokesman in Mosul.

As black smoke rose from a damaged vehicle, a fierce gun battle ensued. American soldiers cordoned off the neighborhood and helicopters circled overhead, according to witnesses. The U.S. military said that by the time Iraqi soldiers searched the mosque, the gunmen had fled.

"This event was a tragic loss," Dangerfield said. "But we will continue to pursue and hunt" for insurgents, he added, "by either capturing or killing them."

The attack raised the U.S. military's reported death toll for January to 36, an increase over the 23 troops killed in December, which was one of the lowest monthly fatality totals of the war. The military said it had detained 18 suspected insurgents in the area by the end of the day.

"When you attack the enemy more, the violence increases, so you have higher casualty rates," said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, a military spokeswoman for northern Iraq. "That's what we're doing, we're pushing al-Qaeda and they're fighting us."

The city of Mosul, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has become a source of growing concern for U.S. and Iraqi officials in recent weeks because they believe insurgents are massing there after fleeing more heavily patrolled areas such as Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The insurgents have set up base camps and stockpiled weapons in the surrounding countryside and desert, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the top U.S. military commander in the region, said in an interview.

The fighters recently have shown their ability to mount devastating attacks, such as the explosion of a booby-trapped building Jan. 23 that an Iraqi relief agency says killed as many as 60 people and wounded 280 others. The following day the provincial police chief was killed up by a suicide bomber as he surveyed the wreckage.

Although overall violence in northern Iraq has dropped significantly since June, attacks in Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh have increased slightly over the past two weeks, when compared with the average of the past year, Hertling said. Currently about 20 attacks are carried out each day in the province, most of them in Mosul, he said.

Col. Stephen Twitty, a former commander of U.S. forces in Mosul, said there were about eight attacks a day in the city in October.

Insurgents are attacking more frequently with small arms and using fewer car bombs, which Hertling saw as "an indicator that shows the enemy in the city are less well supplied and less well organized."

"We have been incredibly successful in targeting the leadership of AQI and ISI, but we are seeing a continued reemergence or positioning of other leaders . . . to Mosul," Hertling said, using military abbreviations for al-Qaeda in Iraq and a related group, the Islamic State of Iraq.


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