2 U.S. troops killed in Iraq; rare loss of American lives amid targeted killings

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 3, 2011; 10:24 AM

BAGHDAD - Two U.S. service members were killed in central Iraq on Sunday night in a rare loss of life for the American military here since the last U.S. combat troops left the country in August.

The two died in a single incident, according to a statement released by the U.S. military command in Baghdad, but details of the event and the names of the deceased were not immediately clear.

Twelve U.S. soldiers have died across Iraq from violence, accidents or other causes since August. But the American deaths come amid a surge of targeted killings of Iraqis in the past week.

Since Saturday, nine police officers and government officials have been killed and 11 wounded in assassinations or targeted bombings. Four of them, who died Sunday in Baghdad, were police officers killed while on patrol or walking in public by gunmen using silencers, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.

On Thursday, two Christians were killed and more than a dozen wounded in a coordinated series of bombings of Christian homes across the Iraqi capital.

Also last week, 19 died when two suicide bombers attacked a government building in Ramadi, and three more wearing explosive vests killed the top police commander and two others and leveled a police headquarters in Iraq's northern city of Mosul.

In a Web posting on New Year's Day, the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliated group, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Ramadi and Mosul.

On Saturday, the clock began ticking on the U.S. military's last scheduled year in Iraq. Roughly 48,000 service members remain in the country. Unless the Iraqi government asks the United States to keep the military in the country, the number of troops will hold steady until summer and then drop off precipitously in the second half of the year, commanders say. The deadline for all U.S. troops to leave is Dec. 31, 2011.

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