15 troops killed in 72 hours in IraqPosted: Updated:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said on Thursday it was setting a trap to "eliminate" militants near Baghdad, where 15 American troops died in the past three days, including five slain Thursday in a single roadside bombing that also killed four Iraqis.
Tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are pushing on with simultaneous operations in Baghdad and to the north, south and west of the capital under Operation Phantom Thunder, a new plan aimed at rooting out al-Qaida fighters and other militants.
The latest offensives, which began in the past week, follow the build-up of U.S. military forces in Iraq to 156,000 soldiers and aim to deny militants sanctuary in the farmlands and towns surrounding Baghdad.
"If you've got it properly cordoned then they're going to flee into somebody's arms. It's a trap," U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox said.
"To the extent that you can eliminate them, we will." Hard fighting was expected in the next 45-60 days, he said.
Suicide attack kills 16 in Sunni enclave
Elsewhere, a suicide truck bomber struck the Sulaiman Bek city hall in a predominantly Sunni area of northern Iraq, killing at least 16 people and wounding 67, an Iraqi commander said.
The latest U.S. deaths raised to at least 3,545 the number of American troops who have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The deadliest attack was a roadside bomb that struck a convoy in northeastern Baghdad on Thursday, killing five U.S. soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi interpreter, the military said.
A rocket-propelled grenade struck a vehicle in northern Baghdad about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, killing one soldier and wounding three others, another statement said.
Deaths on Wednesday
Four other U.S. soldiers were killed and one was wounded Wednesday when their convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in a western neighborhood in the capital, the military said separately.
Southwest of Baghdad, two U.S. soldiers were killed and four were wounded Wednesday when explosions struck near their vehicle, according to a statement earlier in the day.
Two Marines also were killed Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said.
Counting a previously announced U.S. fatality that occurred Tuesday, the latest military statements meant that 15 troops were killed over a three-day period.
Several mortars or rockets slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, raising fresh concerns about the thousands of Americans who live and work in the heavily fortified area in central Baghdad.
The explosion in Sulaiman Bek occurred about 10:30 a.m., and killed 16 people, the local Iraqi army commander said.
Maj. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin, the commander of the Iraqi army's 2nd Brigade, blamed the blast on al-Qaida, saying it was the latest in a series of strikes by the terror network against government officials, whom they accuse of collaborating with the U.S. and the Iraqi government.
Sulaiman Bek is about 100 miles north of the capital and just outside the border with Diyala province, where thousands of U.S. troops are engaged in an offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Amin said the target apparently was the mayor, who has lost five relatives in previous assassination attempts. The blast heavily damaged the city hall, along with several nearby houses and stores.
‘I was walking in the street ...'
Thamir Mohammed, a 28-year-old newlywed, said he was on his way to city hall to do some paperwork to get a new ration card when the blast occurred, knocking him off his feet and wounding him in the head and legs.
"I was walking in the street heading to the city hall when a truck drove up and parked outside. The driver got out and was just outside the truck when the explosion took place," Mohammed said from his hospital bed in nearby Tuz Khormato.
It was the latest in a series of attacks as al-Qaida fights back as the U.S. intensifies operations against the terror network in Baghdad and elsewhere around the capital.
A U.S. airstrike aimed at a booby-trapped house in one of the centers of those offensives, the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba, missed its target and "accidentally hit" another structure, wounding 11 civilians on Wednesday, the military said, adding the incident was under investigation.
U.S. troops had cleared the area to destroy a house containing explosives believed placed by al-Qaida, but "the bomb missed its intended target and struck another structure," the military said. "Reports indicate that 11 civilians were injured."
The initial target was later destroyed by a Hellfire missile, producing a large secondary explosion, according to the statement.
Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>