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7 Marines killed in Iraq; U.S. military death toll exceeds 1,800

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Seven U.S. Marines were killed in two areas of fighting in Iraq's volatile western provinces, the U.S. military reported Tuesday, pushing the death toll for American armed forces above the 1,800 mark.

Six Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team-2 of the 2nd Marine Division were killed in action near Haditha on Monday, according to the military, which didn't disclose how the men died.

A seventh Marine from the same unit was also killed that day by a suicide car bomb during combat operations near Hit.

At least 1,806 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, and at least 1,402 have been killed as a result of hostile action, according to figures compiled by, a Web site that compiles casualty figures from U.S. military news releases.

Scattered violence flared in other parts of the country Tuesday.

Col. Mizhar Hamad Youssef, the police chief of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, was assassinated by gunmen Tuesday morning, according to police sources.

A car bombing targeting an Iraqi police patrol killed an Iraqi civilian and injured six police officers in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.

Two employees from the inspector general office of the Ministry of Finance were killed by gunmen who fired on their car in Baghdad. Three Iraqi soldiers in the capital were injured by a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a checkpoint. And a car bomb targeting an American military patrol exploded inside a tunnel in downtown Baghdad, wounding nine civilians and destroying three cars.

Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, continued to prod Iraqi officials to complete a draft of a new constitution by the Aug. 15 deadline.

The Bush administration is anxious that the constitutional process not be delayed, partly in hopes of creating conditions for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

If the draft is completed by Aug. 15, then a referendum on the document can be held in October, followed by December elections for a permanent government, which U.S. officials hope will help lead to a possible drawdown of U.S. forces next spring.

Khalilzad had praised the drafting committee Monday for passing up a final chance to request an extension of the Aug. 15 deadline.

After a meeting with Iraqi women leaders Tuesday, Khalilzad said protection of women's rights should be a part of the new document.

Drafts of the new constitution propose giving Islam a central role in guiding legislation, raising concerns that women's rights could be restricted. It could result in women losing equal treatment in laws regarding marriage, divorce and inheritance, critics said.

But Khalilzad said, "We expect that this constitution will protect the rights of all Iraqis and treat all Iraqis in a non-discriminatory fashion."


(Chin reports for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondents Mohammed al Awsy and Alaa al Baldawy contributed to this story.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.