7 US soldiers die in Iraq attacks

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Roadside bombings killed seven US soldiers and an interpreter, the military said on Sunday, putting May on track to be one of the deadliest months for US forces in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

A single roadside bomb in western Baghdad killed six soldiers and an interpreter as they were out on patrol on Saturday in search of weapons and bomb-making materials, the military said.

The seventh soldier was killed in the southern city of Diwaniyah, the scene of deadly fighting between rival Shiite factions on Saturday. Two soldiers were also wounded when the bomb tore through their vehicle. At least 15 US servicemen have been reported killed this weekend alone and 76 so far this month, bringing total US losses since the invasion to 3,419, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Increased US patrols as part of a new security plan aimed at regaining control of the violent capital have resulted in a sharp spike in casualties over the past few months.

In Diwaniyah, a truce between Shiite factions restored an uneasy calm to the city after nine people were killed in Saturday’s clashes.

But fighting erupted between militiamen and the security forces outside the city of Kut, southeast of Baghdad, killing at least six people, according to a local security official.

The clashes, which erupted when US and Iraqi forces confronted militamen in the area, killed a policeman, three members of the Mehdi Army of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and two civilians, the official added.

Predominantly Shiite southern Iraq has seen a spate of clashes between rival Shiite militias or between militiamen and the security forces.

Fifteen people were also wounded in Saturday’s street battles in Diwaniyah, including three women and three children, health officials said.

City officials and three MPs loyal to Sadr announced on Sunday that they had agreed a month-long truce.

Although the predominantly Shiite south has been spared much of the sectarian bloodletting plaguing the rest of Iraq, Shiite militias continue to skirmish over oil and other resources.

The battles often pit Sadr’s Mehdi Army against the Badr Organisation, the former armed wing of one of the country’s most powerful Shiite parties, which controls many local police forces.

In other violence on Sunday, two Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded when a bomb exploded next to a petrol station not far from the interior ministry, security officials said.

The bomb tore through the street, demolishing five houses and leaving behind the smoking shell of a car parked on a swath of blackened asphalt, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Another person was killed and three wounded when three mortar rounds struck Saadun Street, a major central thoroughfare, and a pilot in the Iraqi air force was gunned down elsewhere in the capital, security officials said.

And in what remains a grim daily ritual, Baghdad authorities recovered 24 bodies from the city’s streets.

Near the western city of Ramadi, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle, killing a policeman, the US military said.

US forces killed eight suspected insurgents and seized another 34 in overnight raids, it added.

Six suspected insurgents were killed when US forces launched an air strike on a building in the village of Karmah outside the western city of Fallujah, after troops encountered men with automatic weapons.

“As coalition forces advanced towards a targeted building, the six terrorists emerged from a nearby vehicle, armed with automatic weapons and military-style assault vests,” a statement said.

In another raid southwest of Baghdad, US and Iraqi forces killed two suspected insurgents before raiding a building and capturing 14 suspects.

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