BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.S. troops killed 13 suspected insurgents in a raid early Friday targeting a base for suicide bombers, the military reported. Separately, three soldiers and a Marine were killed in fighting Thursday in volatile Anbar province, the military said.
Troops were acting on intelligence reports saying a suspect with links to al-Qaida in Iraq was hiding in a house in Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, the military said in a news release. Five people were killed inside the building, including one man wearing a vest rigged with explosives. Eight other men who fled were gunned down by troops and aircraft circling above, the military said.
Several of those killed appeared to have been from outside Iraq, the report said. The report gave no details about their nationalities and didn’t say whether any Americans had been killed or wounded in the raid.
Explosives, hand grenades and additional explosives-rigged vests used by suicide bombers were discovered in a search of the area following the raid, the report said. The most recent U.S. casualties took to five the number of U.S. service members killed so far this month. That follows an especially dangerous time for U.S. troops in October, when 105 were killed, making it the deadliest month for the U.S. military since the Iraq war began in March 2003. At least 2,822 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war, according to an Associated Press count.
The military said three soldiers were killed in eastern Baghdad on Thursday when the vehicle they were riding in was struck by a roadside bomb at 2:15 p.m. (1115 GMT). No other details were given.
A separate announcement said one Marine died from injuries “sustained due to enemy action” Thursday in Anbar.
The names of the four service members were being withheld until their families had been notified.
A U.S. military spokesman said Thursday that efforts were continuing to find an Iraqi-born Army translator reported missing almost two weeks ago in Baghdad. Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, 41, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was reportedly kidnapped on Oct. 23, but spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said the United States believed the soldier was still in the custody of his abductors and there was “an ongoing dialogue” to win the his release. He gave no details about any such contacts.
Relatively little violence was reported in the battered Iraqi capital on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer when vehicles are banned from the city’s streets between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Despite that, November has so far shown little sign of being any quieter than October, the 43rd month of the U.S. bid to quell violence and build democracy in Iraq, when at least 1,272 Iraqis were killed, according to an Associated Press count. Many other fatalities go unreported. Police Lt. Thaer Mahoud said the death toll in the rush-hour bombing of a crowded market in Baghdad’s Sadr City district Thursday had risen to 11 on Friday, with 51 reported wounded.
The bombing was the first in the area since Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the lifting Tuesday of the week-old U.S.-Iraqi army security blockade on the sprawling Shiite slum of 2.5 million people, the repeated target of bombings by Sunni insurgents. The area itself is believed to be a haven for Shiite radicals behind a wave of abductions and gruesome murders of Sunnis that followed the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February. One of those injured, motorcycle salesman Alaa Abdul-Hussein Kadhi, said the bomb had been placed on a motorcycle in a section where used vehicles and spare parts were sold. “I was thrown to the ground by a huge blast while people shouted in panic,” said Kadhi, 28, who was waiting for an operation on his injured hand.
Spare parts dealer Abbas Abdul-Zahra, 25, said the blast sparked a fire. He was rushed to hospital by others on the scene before rescue services had time to respond. “It was a very strong explosion. I saw the fire and people on the ground,” Abdul-Zahra said.
The relentless carnage three years after the U.S.-led invasion has made Iraq a top issue for voters less than a week before Tuesday’s U.S. congressional elections. Seeking to allay critics, U.S. President George W. Bush has pushed for the Iraqi army and police to speed up training to allow them to take over security duties from U.S. forces. U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces need another 12 to 18 months before they are up to the task, and Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani said Thursday on a visit to Paris that all American forces could be gone from Iraq within three years. “Two to three years are needed to build our security forces and say bye-bye to our friends,” said Talabani, a Kurd whose ethnic group owes its relative prosperity and independence in northern Iraq to the U.S. invasion.
Talabani has repeatedly predicted an earlier departure for American forces than U.S. generals have. Asked about Talabani’s remarks, Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, said: “All parties agree on the desire to hand over control for security to the Iraqis as soon as possible.”
Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed said their party will attempt to pass legislation to begin bringing some troops home immediately. “We want to end the open-ended commitment of our troops, and we want to begin, at least by the end of the year, the reduction of American forces,” Levin said. U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey on Thursday called the ongoing training of Iraqi army and police units a “very difficult situation,” but one that remains vital to ending U.S. involvement in the country. The Army’s 1st Infantry Division is training advisers who will be deployed for one year to work with counterparts in Iraq as that nation assumes more responsibility for its own security. “It’s kind of an Army cultural challenge to train our leaders to not to take the lead. We in the Army have a tendency to say, ‘We’ll take it. We’re going to do it,”‘ Harvey said Thursday. “We’re there to advise and to, in a sense, to train the Iraqis to be as competent, and as quality and as confident as our own Army.” Harvey spoke to reporters after reviewing the transition team training at Fort Riley and getting a status report on activities at the post related to the 1st Infantry Division’s return in August from Germany.
More than 300,000 Iraqis serve in the army and police forces, with some of those units taking over responsibility for security in a few sectors of the country. The advisers trained at Fort Riley are embedded with the Iraqi units, teaching them the tactics to function in an environment rife with sectarian violence.