US troop deaths push monthly toll to 7-month high in Iraq
- US troop deaths push monthly toll to 7-month high in Iraq
Apr 30 10:13 AM US/Eastern
By SLOBODAN LEKIC
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) - The killings of three U.S. soldiers in separate attacks
in Baghdad pushed the American death toll for April up to 47, making it
the deadliest month since September, the military said Wednesday.
One soldier died when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. The
other died of wounds sustained when he was attacked by small-arms fire,
the military said. Both incidents occurred Tuesday in northwestern Baghdad.
A third soldier died in a roadside bombing Tuesday night in the east of
the capital, the military said.
The statement did not give a more specific location. But the eastern
half of Baghdad includes embattled Sadr City and other neighborhoods
that have been the focus of intense combat between Shiite militants and
U.S.-Iraqi troops for more than a month.
In all, at least 4,059 members of the U.S. military have died since the
Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
"We have said all along that this will be a tough fight and there will
be periods where we see these extremists, these criminal groups and
al-Qaida terrorists seek to reassert themselves," U.S. military
spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad.
"So, the sacrifice of our troopers, the sacrifice of Iraqi forces and
Iraqi citizens reflects this challenge," Bergner said in response to a
question about what's behind the increase in American troop deaths.
The U.S. military said at least 10 gunmen had been killed in three
separate clashes in eastern Baghdad late Tuesday and Wednesday.
The latest fighting erupted at the end of March after Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki launched a crackdown against Shiite militias in the
southern port city of Basra. But it quickly spread to Baghdad's Sadr
City, a sprawling slum with about 2.5 million people that is a
stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Muqtada
The militiamen have used the district as a base to fire barrages of
missiles and mortar rounds at the U.S.-protected Green Zone which houses
much of the Iraqi government and Western diplomatic missions, including
the U.S. and British embassies.
They also have fought running street battles in which hundreds have
died. The U.S. military says those killed have been mainly gunmen. But
police and medical authorities in Sadr City say innocent civilians have
frequently gotten caught up in the fighting.
Tahseen al-Sheikhly, the spokesman for the civilian side of Baghdad
security operations, said Wednesday that a total of 925 people had died
and 2,605 were wounded in Sadr City. But he gave no timeframe or details
about how the figure was reached.
Previous Interior Ministry casualty figures for the past month had
indicated that less than 400 people had perished. It was not immediately
possible to reconcile the conflicting figures. Officials at the Baghdad
military operations center said they could not confirm al-Sheikhly's count.
Also in Sadr City, AP Television News footage showed a school that had
been badly damaged by an explosion on Tuesday. Parts of the two-floor
building had pancaked as the result of the blast. Desks were hanging
down from the slanting classrooms where the outer walls were blown out
by the blast.
On Wednesday, al-Maliki accused the Mahdi Army of using civilians as
human shields, and vowed to continue the crackdown against militias.
"We can't build a state along with militias," he told reporters at a
news conference. "We want to build a single national army."
Al-Maliki said gunmen had killed the nephew of police Maj. Gen. Abdul-
Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman who had also overseen
operations in Basra, by hanging him from an electricity pole in Sadr City.
Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin and Qassim Abdul-Zahra
contributed to this report.
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