Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq Push April Death Toll to 48

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 1, 2008

BAGHDAD, April 30 -- Attacks on U.S. troops over the past two days killed six soldiers, the U.S. military said Wednesday, pushing the military's death toll in Iraq for April to 48, the highest for a single month since September.

Two of the soldiers were killed Wednesday afternoon in southern Baghdad after their convoy was struck by a roadside bomb, the military said. A third soldier was killed early Wednesday by an explosive device while on foot patrol in northern Baghdad.

A fourth soldier died "as the result of an explosion" while on patrol Wednesday in Nineveh province, north of Baghdad, the military said.

The two other soldiers were killed Tuesday in separate attacks in the capital. One was shot, and a roadside bomb struck the other soldier's vehicle, the military said.

"We have said all along that this will be a tough fight," Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, a U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, said at a news conference.

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq had declined gradually after monthly death tolls exceeded 100 in April, May and June of 2007. The death toll for September was 65. According to iCasualties.org, three service members were killed in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait, bringing the total number of U.S. service members killed in April to 51.

Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki defended military operations in Sadr City, a vast Shiite district in eastern Baghdad where hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks. He reaffirmed his intention to disarm militias and insurgent groups, singling out the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"The army should be the state's army only, not the army of the militias," Maliki said. The prime minister rejected the notion that Sadr City is "under siege," as some residents have described it.

In recent weeks, U.S. soldiers have been drawn into fierce street fighting in Sadr City, a stronghold of Sadrists and the launching site of most rockets aimed at the Green Zone. The fighting intensified this week as suspected militias took advantage of a dust storm that grounded U.S. military helicopters to launch sustained rocket attacks on the Green Zone. U.S. troops have responded with airstrikes and Abrams tanks.

"Every day we hear that rockets are launched on residential areas in Baghdad, and every day people are getting killed," said Maliki, who accused militia leaders of using the civilian population as a shield.

Tahseen al-Sheikhli, a spokesman for security operations in Baghdad, said at a news conference Wednesday that 925 people had been killed in the clashes. He did not provide details.

Continuing clashes in Baghdad on Wednesday left at least 25 people dead, the U.S. military said.


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