BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -Insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter south of Baghdad and killed two soldiers, the U.S. military said Monday. Their deaths, along with those of three other soldiers and two Marines, brought the weekend toll to seven U.S. service members.
Elsewhere, eight Iraqis were killed, including four teachers on their way to school and a civilian struck by a roadside bomb that hit an oil tanker, sending black smoke billowing over central Baghdad.
In southern Iraq, militants fired more than 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp, wounding four soldiers.
The helicopter attack occurred Sunday during fighting in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of the Iraqi capital, the military said in a brief statement.
It was the second helicopter shot down in the past six weeks over that area, known as the “Triangle of Death” as the scene of a large number of insurgent attacks. An Apache helicopter went down there on April 1.
The two U.S. Marines died Sunday during unspecified “enemy action” in Anbar Province, the area of western Iraq that is the heart of the Sunni-led insurgency, the U.S. command said. Two U.S. Army soldiers also died Sunday in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
The six fatalities raised to at least 2,443 the number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press. Another U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Saturday.
The mortar barrage came at about 4:30 a.m. Monday at Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, said British spokeswoman Capt. Kelly Goodall.
One of the British soldiers was badly hurt, but the others’ injuries were not serious, said Holly Wheeler, a British Ministry of Defense spokeswoman in London.
The attack raised the total of British casualties in Iraq over the past nine days to six soldiers killed and five wounded. The other attacks also occurred in southern Iraq, an area that has been far more peaceful than central and northern Iraq where U.S. forces are based.
On Saturday, two British soldiers were killed and one was wounded by a roadside bomb as they patrolled in their armored vehicle north of Basra city.
On May 6, four British soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in Basra, apparently downed by a missile. Jubilant Iraqi residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans in support of a radical Shiite cleric. Five Iraqi civilians, including a child, died and about 30 were wounded in the melee as Shiite gunmen and British soldiers exchanged fire.
On Monday, a drive-by shooting at about 8:30 a.m. killed four teachers en route to their school in a village near Balad Ruz, a town 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. The attackers and the victims were both riding in minibuses, the private vehicles that charge small fees to transport the general public.
In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed the officers but killed one civilian, wounded four and set fire to an oil tanker parked nearby on Monday. “The explosion caused a huge fire,” said police Capt. Ziyad Naji. One man died in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad.
Roadside bombs exploded in two cities north and south of Baghdad, killing one Iraqi civilian and a police officer, and wounding five Iraqis, police said.
On Sunday, widespread violence in Iraq killed dozens of people, including 14 Iraqis who died in a double suicide car bombing on the main road to Baghdad’s airport.
The violence came as talks on a new Cabinet bogged down in sectarian divisions only a week before the constitutional deadline for completion of the process.
There had been hope that Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki would fill at least some Cabinet posts when parliament convened Sunday, perhaps even taking on for himself contentious roles such as the interior and defense ministries.
Al-Maliki’s mandate to form a Cabinet expires May 22. Should he fail, President Jalal Talabani would have 15 days to choose someone else to try to form a Cabinet. The constitution is unclear on whether he could pick al-Maliki again.
Lawmakers have struggled since Dec. 15 parliamentary elections to put together a national unity government, which many Iraqis and the U.S. government hope will lessen sectarian tensions and undermine support for the insurgency.