By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008
BAGHDAD, March 24 -- A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers on patrol in southern Baghdad late Sunday, the military said in a statement Monday, taking the overall U.S. death toll in the five-year Iraq war to at least 4,000. Earlier, mortar and rocket attacks pounded the Green Zone, the heavily fortified U.S.-Iraqi military and government complex, on a day when more than 60 people were killed in violence across the country.
The Green Zone assault began shortly before 6 a.m., waking U.S. military personnel, then resumed later in the day and continued into the evening. Four people received medical treatment, U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip T. Reeker said. He said he did not know the identities of those injured or their medical status.
No group asserted responsibility, but similar attacks in the past have been tied to Shiite extremist groups.
The fatal attack on the U.S. patrol in Baghdad also injured one soldier, but further details were not available. The U.S. death toll of 4,000 includes eight Defense Department civilians.
The Green Zone shelling and the other attacks across Iraq marked an escalation of violence at the start of the war's sixth year.
In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide attacker detonated an explosives-laden truck after driving through the main gate of an Iraqi army headquarters. The blast killed 15 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 42.
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in the western neighborhood of Sholeh at about 2:30 p.m., killing five Iraqi civilians and wounding seven. Gunmen in the southern part of the capital opened fire in a market, killing six civilians and injuring 17 others. Also in southern Baghdad, U.S. forces in helicopters killed 15 gunmen and injured 17, according to Interior Ministry sources.
In central Baghdad, mortar rounds demolished houses, killing two civilians, including a child. At least two people also were killed when mortar shells, apparently aimed at the Green Zone, landed on their houses in the Kamaliya district in the eastern part of the city.
On Baghdad's west side, in the Mansour area, one person was killed in a roadside bombing, Interior Ministry sources said.
In Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, gunmen in Balad Ruz attacked the convoy of an emergency battalion commander, killing him and three of his bodyguards. Four Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the city. Near Baqubah, also northeast of Baghdad, a battalion commander was fatally shot outside his house. In downtown Baqubah, a gunman killed a policeman and injured two others.
After a lull, violence has escalated in recent days. Shiite leaders on Friday warned followers to expect more bloodshed after a suicide bombing near a Shiite shrine in Karbala on Monday and continued clashes between Iraqi forces and Shiite militias in southern areas of the country.
Also Sunday, the commander of U.S. prisons in Iraq defended the military's incarceration policies as the detainee population has swelled to 23,000, nearly 45 percent higher than a year ago.
Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone said the military is detaining 50 to 60 Iraqis a day, compared with 20 to 30 a day in April 2007. The growing prison population "is clearly a consequence of the surge," he said, referring to the troop buildup that began last year.
At a military briefing in Baghdad with Iraqi and Arab reporters seeking details about U.S. detention procedures, Stone said detainees were benefiting from about 23 jobs programs. He said most want to go home, but "some have asked to stay in detention."
Iraqi politicians from different sectarian backgrounds have complained that many detainees have languished for months or years without charges and that many are wrongfully accused. The United Nations has also been critical of the procedures.
A U.N. human rights report in April expressed concern about the U.S. military's "indefinite internment of detainees," noting that people are "held for prolonged periods effectively without charge or trial." The U.S. Embassy was harshly critical of the report.
"My answer is that it's looking pretty good," Stone said.
Special correspondents Zaid Sabah and Dalya Hassan in Baghdad, Dlovan Brwari in Mosul and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.