Military: Troop deaths hit 1,904 in Iraq
Associated Press | September 20, 2005
By STEVEN R. HURST
|BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said Tuesday that four U.S. soldiers died in two roadside bombings near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi and a fifth died in a blast north of Baghdad, pushing the toll of American forces killed in Iraq past 1,900.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said a suicide car bombing killed four other Americans - a diplomatic security agent and three private security agents - traveling in a convoy Monday in Mosul. The four were attached to the embassy's regional office in the northern city, Iraq's third-largest, said spokesman Peter J. Mitchell.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice identified the Diplomatic Security officer as Stephen Eric Sullivan, calling his death "a tragic loss for all of us at the Department of State." His age and permanent address were not given.
Four of the soldiers were killed in two separate bomb attacks Monday during combat operations in Ramadi, a volatile city 70 miles west of Baghdad. The victims were U.S. Army soldiers attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
The fifth soldier, from the 18th Military Police Brigade, was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb 75 miles north of the capital.
As of Tuesday, 1,904 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,483 died from hostile action, according to the military. The figures include five military civilians.
Ramadi has been the scene of intense but sporadic fighting since the insurgency gained strength and began its offensive against U.S. forces in the summer of 2003.
The Euphrates River city is the capital of Anbar Province, a huge region that stretches from Baghdad to the Saudi, Jordanian and Syrian borders. Many cities, towns and villages along the river are insurgent strongholds, where Saddam Hussein loyalists have teamed with foreign fighters of al-Qaida in Iraq to battle the Americans and U.S.-trained Iraqi army and police.
There have been reports of fighting in the region since Thursday, when al-Qaida in Iraq said in an Internet posting that its forces battled the Americans.
In recent weeks, rebel bombs have been responsible for 70 percent to 80 percent of American soldiers killed or wounded, according to U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Boylan.
Since the start of the war, about 32 percent of U.S. military deaths have been from improvised explosives, suicide bombs or other such blasts - compared with about 48 percent in firefights and other combat. About 19 percent died in accidents.
The Sunni-dominated insurgency has conducted a rampage of violent attacks since a suicide bomber blew himself up a week ago amid a group of men seeking work in Baghdad, killing 112 people, mostly Shiites. Thirteen more bombings in the next 10 hours left a death toll of 167, the bloodiest day in the capital since the invasion.
Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility, and its leader, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared war on Iraq's Shiite majority.
A spokesman for Iraq's prime minister, meanwhile, described as "very unfortunate" an incident in the southern city of Basra in which British armored vehicles broke down the wall of a jail to try to free two British soldiers later found in the custody of local militiamen elsewhere in the city.
"My understanding is, first, it happened very quickly. Second, there is lack of discipline in the whole area regarding this matter," said Haydar al-Abadi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "It is (a) very unfortunate development that the British forces should try to release their soldiers the way it happened."
British authorities said their soldiers were being held illegally and that their captors had refused an order from the Iraqi Interior Minister for their release.
Photos from the jail Tuesday showed a concrete wall broken through, several cars crushed - apparently by armored vehicles - and prefabricated structures demolished.
Basra provincial Gov. Mohammed al-Waili condemned the British for raiding the prison, an act he called "barbaric, savage and irresponsible."
British Defense Minister John Reid defended the action as "absolutely right," saying laws under which the Iraqi government was given sovereignty in 2004 require that coalition forces detained by Iraqi authorities be handed over to the U.S.-led multinational force.
"I understand also that the minister of the Interior, at the highest level, instructed that they should be (handed over), that the local judicial authorities said the same," Reid told the BBC.
"And that is why in the course of the day, while we were negotiating, in view of that fact that they weren't handed over, we got increasingly worried and the commander on the spot, with hindsight, was absolutely right to do what he did, because we discovered they weren't in the police station, they were somewhere else, but are now safe," Reid said.
Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi TV cameraman who lives across the street from the jail, said about 150 Iraqi prisoners fled as British commandos stormed inside to rescue their comrades. Iraqi and British officials said that was not true.
The Shiite-dominated south of Iraq, where 8,500 British troops are based, has been far quieter than Sunni regions to the north, but Britons have come under frequent attacks recently. The British military has reported 96 deaths since the war began.
The latest violence in Basra began early Monday when authorities reported arresting the two Britons, described as special forces commandos in civilian clothing, for allegedly shooting two policemen, one of whom reportedly died.
Al-Abadi said the men were arrested because they acted suspiciously.
British armor then encircled the jail where the two were held.
Cameramen from Arab satellite broadcasters were allowed to photograph the men, who appeared to be Westerners and were sitting on the floor, their hands tied behind them.
One of the men had a bandage on his head, the other had blood on his clothes.
A melee broke out in the streets outside the jail as demonstrators attacked the British armor with stones and Molotov cocktails. During the chaos, one British soldier could be seen scrambling for his life from a burning Warrior armored fighting vehicle.
Press Association reported that three British soldiers were hurt, but said none of the injuries was life-threatening. Iraqi authorities said three demonstrators were killed and 15 others wounded.
Tensions have been mounting in Basra for weeks.
On Friday, a local commander of al-Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was arrested, prompting a demonstration for his release.
On Sunday, Fakher Haider, 38, an Iraqi journalist working for The New York Times was killed after men claiming to be police officers took him from his home, the newspaper said.
Last month, freelance journalist Steven Vincent was killed after he wrote a column in the Times accusing Basra police of being infiltrated by Shiite militiamen.