Roadside bombs kill 4 US soldiers in Iraq
The separate attacks in Baghdad and in northern Iraq showed the dangers still facing U.S. troops as they drastically scale back their presence and prepare for a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.
The monthly U.S. death toll has declined sharply this year, falling into single digits for the first time, with American troops shifting to a mainly support and training role in line with a security pact that took effect on Jan. 1. August saw the lowest monthly toll since the war began in 2003, with seven U.S. deaths.
But attacks have persisted since American troops withdrew from population centers on June 30 — as required under the security deal — and Iraqi forces have borne the brunt. Bombings and shootings killed at least 10 Iraqis on Tuesday. The attacks have heightened concerns about Iraqi forces` ability to protect the people and raised fears of resurgent violence ahead of January`s parliamentary elections.
One roadside bomb struck a patrol in southern Baghdad, killing one American soldier. A short time later, another bomb targeting a patrol in northern Iraq killed three U.S. soldiers, the military said.
With the deaths, six U.S. troops have been killed this month. It was the deadliest day for U.S. forces since June 29, when four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. In all, at least 4,343 U.S. service members have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
An Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad acknowledged the need to improve Iraq`s U.S.-trained security forces at a news conference on Tuesday as political fallout continued following devastating Aug. 19 suicide truck bombings that targeted government ministry buildings.
Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said 29 police and army officers responsible for security in the areas of the hardest-hit foreign and finance ministries had been arrested and charged with negligence.
"Absolutely, what has been achieved so far in the intelligence and security efforts is below expectations. There is a review to all security plans with the supervision of the prime minister," he said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has blamed loyalists of ousted leader Saddam Hussein based in Syria for organizing and financing the attacks, which killed as many as 101 people.
His demands for the extradition of the main suspects and call for an international tribunal to investigate the attacks have led to a rift with Damascus that has threatened recent moves toward friendlier relations between the two neighbors.
Iraq`s presidential council, led by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, called on the prime minister to ease the tensions. It said the situation with Syria should be contained "through dialogue and diplomatic channels."
August was the third deadliest month for Iraqis this year, with at least 425 people killed, according to an AP count. Only June with 448 casualties, and April with 451, saw more people killed. So far this month at least 63 Iraqis have been killed.
The deadliest attacks Tuesday occurred in areas surrounding the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad.
A roadside bomb killed the head of an Iraqi anti-terrorism police unit and four of his bodyguards in Armili, a mainly Shiite Turkomen town of about 26,000 south of Kirkuk, police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qader said.
Armed relatives of those killed went looking for the assailants, who they believed had come from a nearby Sunni village, setting off a gunbattle. Iraqi army troops intervened and no casualties were reported, but the skirmish illustrated lingering sectarian tensions despite security gains.
Another roadside bomb struck a police patrol at the nearby town of Daqouq, killing two policemen and wounding three others, Kirkuk police said.
Two people also were killed in the northern city of Mosul, one civilian in a roadside bombing and a soldier who was gunned down at a checkpoint, according to Iraqi officials.
In Baghdad, a Health Ministry official escaped an assassination attempt but the roadside bomb against his convoy killed one ministry employee, officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
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