BAGHDAD — Two American soldiers were killed and six were wounded Friday by a car bomb north of Baghdad, wrapping up a week of renewed insurgent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq.
The explosion in the town of Jalula in restive Diyala province, one of the last main hideouts of the group al Qaida in Iraq, also killed an Iraqi police officer and four Iraqi civilians. U.S. patrols also were attacked earlier this week in Baghdad and areas north, west and south of the capital, according to Iraqi police reports.
The American casualties Friday, along with the string of nonfatal attacks on U.S. convoys this week, interrupted a period of relative calm as American forces continue a gradual drawdown that the Obama administration plans to complete by the end of next year. A resurgence of violence by Sunni Muslim insurgents or Shiite Muslim militias could complicate that effort.
In the Jalula attack, a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol had stopped to investigate a neighborhood fight when a suicide car bomber approached and detonated before 10 a.m., according to Iraqi authorities and a local politician.
An Iraqi major in the Interior Ministry’s emergency force, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to make statements, was part of the American-Iraqi patrol, which was searching for weapons in a neighborhood where a quarrel had escalated to the use of hand grenades. He said he was stepping out of his patrol car when the explosion occurred.
“All I remember is a big boom and being thrown into the air,” the major said from his hospital bed in Jalula, where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds. “I saw American soldiers lying on the ground. Some were dead. We were terrified about what to do. I was watching Americans run left and right, taking cover.”
The U.S. military's statement on the incident announced the deaths and injuries, but gave few details of the attack. Military officials in Baghdad didn’t immediately respond to questions sent by e-mail.
“We hadn’t heard about attacking Americans in months,” said Basheer Abdullah Mohamed, a Jalula city council member.
He said he wasn’t sure why militants chose to attack now. They often strike Iraqi targets, and Americans haven’t been hard to find.
“Americans come and leave the city all the time. It wasn’t their first day today. They visit the city like they’re visiting their own house,” Mohamed said.
The other attacks on Americans this week included three on Thursday.
In the first, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. convoy traveled on a highway through predominantly Sunni Anbar province. No casualties were reported, but the blast left a large crater, and a McClatchy reporter at the scene saw a crane lifting a heavily damaged U.S. armored vehicle onto a flatbed truck. American forces cordoned off the area, blocking traffic, and didn’t allow even Iraqi security forces near the scene.
Later Thursday afternoon, a roadside bomb targeted a U.S. convoy as it headed toward Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. Iraqi authorities said they had no information on casualties because American forces didn’t allow their Iraqi counterparts near the scene.
At about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, just south of Baghdad in Yusifiya, another roadside bomb exploded near U.S. forces. No casualties were reported.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomber who was driving a motorcycle with a trailer blew up near an American convoy in the center of Muqdadiya, in Diyala, the province where Friday’s attack occurred. Two Iraqis were killed and five were wounded, Iraqi authorities said. There was no word on U.S. casualties.
Last Saturday, witnesses and local authorities said, a roadside bomb targeted a U.S. patrol in the Balad district of Salahadin, the home province of the late Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. No casualties were reported.
As of Friday afternoon, no group had claimed responsibility for the attacks in Diyala or other provinces.
However, online forums that Iraqi militants and their supporters use were full of comments praising the latest attacks on Americans. On one site, a user posted a photo of a man carrying the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq, the umbrella group for al Qaida-linked militants. The caption read: “The Islamic State of Iraq is still here.”
Someone who used the online handle “TNT” wrote: “God be praised. I’m almost certain that jihad has returned to what it was in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007. Three martyrdom operations in two days against the Americans.”
(McClatchy special correspondents Sahar Issa and Mohammed al Dulaimy contributed from Baghdad; Jamal Naji from Anbar. An Iraqi correspondent who cannot be named for security reasons contributed from Diyala.
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