5 U.S. soldiers die in Baghdad attack, worst toll in 2 years

McClatchy NewspapersJune 6, 2011 

BAGHDAD — Five U.S. soldiers died Monday when at least three rockets hit a joint compound for U.S. and Iraqi security forces in eastern Baghdad, the highest death toll for American forces on a single day in more than two years. In the latest burst of violence in Iraq, at least 16 Iraqis also were killed in Baghdad and in the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, north of the capital.

The U.S. troops who died Monday were stationed at Camp Loyalty in east Baghdad, a site that used to be headquarters for Iraq's General Directorate of Intelligence during Saddam's regime.

A witness who lives in a high-rise close by the camp said he saw at least three rockets hit the compound. Iraqi police said the rockets had been launched from a car on Al Qanat Street in a mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood in southern Baghdad. They said the car itself later was seen on fire.

Attacks on American troops have risen dramatically in recent months. Monday's deaths brought to 18 the number of Americans killed by hostile fire so far this year, nearly as many as the 22 who died from enemy fire in all of last year, according to the iCasualties website, which tracks casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That pace, however, is still far below the rate of 2007, when 767 Americans were killed in combat, the peak year for U.S. fatalities in Iraq, or 2009, when 75 American troops died as a result of enemy fire.

The last time so many U.S. soldiers died from hostile fire in a single day in Iraq was April 10, 2009, when five were killed when a suicide truck bomb exploded in Mosul, in Ninevah province, according to iCasualties.

Monday's attack added to questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to control the unstable situation just months before the planned American withdrawal, which is set for Dec. 31 under the two countries' security agreement. There are about 47,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Unknown killers have stepped up assassinations against Iraqi security forces during the last few months. According to Iraqi Interior Ministry officials, 64 security officers have been killed this year, mostly by silenced weapons during the last five months.

At least 16 Iraqis were killed and 37 were wounded in other attacks Monday.

Eleven were killed and 17 wounded in Tikrit when a suicide car bomb detonated near the headquarters of Salahuddin province's governor, a heavily fortified section of the city that once was home to Saddam's palaces. The attack came three days after a series of bombs claimed 20 lives at a Tikrit mosque and then later at the city's hospital.

Four of the five attacks in Baghdad came in the Azamiyah neighborhood, a Sunni Muslim district. According to an Interior Ministry official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, the gunmen attacked two checkpoints manned by members of the Awakening Council militia, which was formed to assist the Iraqi government with security, and one checkpoint manned by Iraqi soldiers. Three Awakening Council members were killed and three were wounded, while one Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded.

Three policemen and three civilians were wounded in the fourth attack, when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded.

The fifth attack took place on Palestine Street in east Baghdad. A parked car exploded, killing a passer-by and wounding 10 others.

Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent. MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

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