BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -A roadside bomb aimed at a U.S. military convoy hit a minibus instead Wednesday, killing five Iraqis, police said. The U.S. command announced that it is stepping up counterinsurgency training for newly arrived officers to give them the latest tactics about protecting patrols from such attacks.
At least 93 American service members died during October, making it the fourth deadliest month for the troops in the Iraq war. Many of the victims were killed by homemade bombs that the Pentagon has confirmed are becoming more powerful and technologically sophisticated.
The deaths raised to at least 2,026 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The roadside bomb exploded at 7:30 a.m. on a two-lane highway in Jurf al Naddaf, said police Lt. Col. Sabah Hussein. He said the blast hit a private minibus traveling behind the American military patrol. Six Iraqis were wounded in addition to the five killed, Hussein said.
In Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, insurgents used guns, rockets and roadside bombs to attack U.S. patrols late Tuesday, said police Capt. Nassir Al-Alousi. On Wednesday, Associated Press Television News obtained a video from the scene showing a burning civilian vehicle and what appeared to be the exploded wreckage of a U.S. Humvee.
A crowd of Iraqis gathered at the site and one man, waving a damaged machine gun in the air, said the attacks had caused American casualties. The U.S. military could not immediately confirm casualties and said it had no information on fighting there.
Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, confirmed the U.S. command will soon open a school for training officers at Taji, an air base 12 miles north of Baghdad.
The New York Times reported that the school will be for newly arrived Army and Marine officers and allow field commanders to give them the latest tactics on finding and destroying roadside bombs and dealing with Iraq”s many insurgent factions.
The Times said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, had ordered the school”s formation because of increasingly flexible and deadly attacks by insurgents.
Soldiers and Marines already receive some counterinsurgency instruction in the United States before leaving for Iraq, but the Times said some senior U.S. commanders have expressed concern that the instruction has been uneven and lags behind the fast-changing tactics that insurgents use in Iraq. The academy will give intensive one-week courses, the report said.
Elsewhere, U.S. ground and air forces launched fresh attacks Wednesday near the Syrian border, destroying several insurgent "safe houses," killing a militant leader and stopping an insurgent cell from planting roadside bombs around the border town of Husaybah, the military said.
In Baghdad, Iraq”s government announced that a raid in Mosul last Thursday killed four insurgents, including Abdul Sattar, identified as an al-Qaida in Iraq member leading militant operations there.
The U.S. military said it captured two Yemeni fighters in the Iraqi capital Tuesday who were on a reconnaissance mission and may have been involved in planning car bomb attacks.
The U.S. command also said its soldiers detained 12 suspected insurgents after an attack on coalition forces early Tuesday in eastern Baghdad. Searching a nearby cement factory, U.S. and Iraqi forces found more than 65 AK-47 rifles, 120 AK-47 magazines, three machine guns and three ammunition drums, the military said.
On Tuesday, Iraq”s government blamed a Syria-based Moroccan for the Sept. 29 triple car bomb attack that killed at least 60 people north of Baghdad in the city of Balad.
Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi also urged Arab governments to demand that Syria curb the movement of foreign fighters into this country.
The government identified the Moroccan as Muhsen Khayber, who also is sought in his homeland for the terror bombings in Casablanca in May 2003.
Iraqi officials did not cite any evidence to link Khayber to the Balad attacks but have long maintained that foreign Islamic extremists play a major role in the wave of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent months.
Spanish authorities, however, believe Khayber was part of a network linked to Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic extremist group based in northern Iraq.
The Iraqi statement said Khayber moved last year to Syria, "where he helped organize terror cells for foreign terrorists" headed for Iraq.
Arab media have reported that Khayber was arrested in Syria in May 2004 and handed over to the Moroccans. However, Moroccan government spokesman Nabil Benabdallah told The Associated Press that he had not heard of Khayber.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the sensitivity of the issue, said Khayber was believed still in Syria.