US death toll in Iraq passes 3,500 as killings continue unabated

US death toll in Iraq passes 3,500 as killings continue unabated
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First Published: Fri, Jun 08 2007. 03 51 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Jun 08 2007. 03 51 AM IST
Baghdad: The four-year US military death toll in Iraq passed 3,500 after a soldier was reported killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. A British soldier was also shot to death on 7 June 2007 in southern Iraq, as Western forces find themselves increasingly vulnerable under a new strategy to take the fight to the enemy.
The mounting US casualties, most by makeshift bombs placed in potholes on roads or in fields where troops conduct foot patrols, come as American troops work with Iraqi forces on the streets and in remote outposts as part of a joint crackdown on sectarian violence.
A US soldier was killed and two others were wounded on 6 June when a roadside bomb exploded during combat operations in a southwestern section of Baghdad, the military said. At least 3,501 US service-members have been killed since the beginning of the war, according to an Associated Press count.
They include at least 23 American deaths during the first six days of June — an average of almost four per day, a similar pace to that in May. American troops deaths reached 127 in May, making it the third-deadliest month since the war started in March 2003. The average is nearly double the roughly two a day killed in June 2006.
And despite the crackdown by the security forces, bombings, shootings, mortar attacks and execution-style killings left at least 62 Iraqis dead nationwide. They included 32 unidentified men who were handcuffed, blindfolded and shot to death in Baghdad — the apparent victims of so-called sectarian death squads usually run by Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, stressed it was too early to see results because the buildup of some 30,000 extra US forces for the operation would not be complete for nearly two more weeks.
“We achieved some early success through the first several months of the effort. The sectarian murder and execution rate was cut by over two-thirds, and then we saw it come back a bit during the month of May,” he told CNN.
“We do have some aggressive plans to ... go after al-Qaida and some of the sanctuaries they’ve been able to build and dispatch car bombs from for some time. That won’t be without a fight, but it is something that we must do in the areas around Baghdad to provide better security for the people in Baghdad,” he said.
The day’s deadliest attack was a simultaneous suicide truck-bus bombing in the town of Rabia, near the Syrian border.
A suicide attacker blew up his explosives-laden truck at a police station in Rabia near the Syrian border, killing at least five policemen and five civilians, and wounding 22 other people, including 14 policemen, according to police and army Capt. Mohammed Ahmed.
A guard shot the driver as he approached the building, but the truck still penetrated its blast walls and exploded, destroying the one-story structure, said Ahmed, an officer with the army’s Third Division that oversees the area.
Another bomber driving a minibus struck a building about 500 yards away at the same time, police said, adding that five Britons working in the building were wounded. British officials could not immediately be reached to confirm that report.
In Baghdad, a bomb beneath a parked car exploded at lunchtime outside a falafel restaurant, killing at least seven people and wounding 14, police reported. The teeming slum, which is a Mahdi Army stronghold, has repeatedly been targeted by Sunni extremists seeking to terrorize the Shiite majority and inflame hostilities between the Muslim sects.
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First Published: Fri, Jun 08 2007. 03 51 AM IST