US general says Iraq will get deadlier
8 Americans swell day's toll from attacks
BAGHDAD -- A US Army general yesterday forecast a rise in deaths among American forces in the coming months, a prediction underscored by the announcement that a roadside bomb had killed six US soldiers and a foreign journalist north of Baghdad. Five other American troops died elsewhere over the weekend.
Major General Rick Lynch, commander of the Third Infantry Division, said casualties will climb as American troops dig into enemy territory as part of a stepped-up military operation ordered by President Bush in January. Lynch, who oversees a swath of territory to the south and east of Baghdad, gave his bleak prediction on the heels of the deadliest month this year for American forces in Iraq.
In April, 104 troops were killed, the fourth time since the beginning of 2005 that US deaths exceeded 100 in a single month. At least 25 troops have been killed in May, a grim start to a month in which Democrats are expected to keep up pressure on the White House to plan a withdrawal from Iraq.
The latest deaths came on a bloody day for Iraqi security forces and civilians as well. At least 58 Iraqis died in attacks, including 42 killed when a car bomb tore through a market in the Baghdad neighborhood of Bayaa.
North of the capital, in the city of Samarra, 12 police officers died when a suicide bomber rammed a car into the police headquarters.
Witnesses said scores of vehicles filled with people waving black flags representing the Islamic State of Iraq, an Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim insurgent group, cruised through the city before the attack. The vehicle occupants fired on police stations, killing one officer before the car bomber struck.
Those killed in the blast included Samarra's police chief, Colonel Jaleel Nahi Hassoun.
In February 2006, a bomb shattered Samarra's Golden Mosque, one of the holiest shrines to Shi'ite Muslims, in an attack that unleashed fierce sectarian warfare between Shi'ites and Sunnis.
In his comments, Lynch echoed other military warnings that insurgent groups linked to Al Qaeda are escalating attacks in hopes of igniting fresh Sunni-Shi'ite warfare.
"I believe he's out there looking for another Golden Mosque," Lynch said of Al Qaeda.
Lynch gave a bleak assessment of the situation on the ground. In coming months, as the remainder of 28,000 additional US troops move into place to enforce the US security plan launched in mid-February at Bush's command, he said American casualties will go up.
"There are going to be increased casualties during this surge because we're taking the fight to the enemy," Lynch told journalists.
He said troops in his area of operation are facing a "thinking enemy" that has been on the ground far longer than most US soldiers and has adopted techniques to trip up the Americans, such as planting roadside explosives too deep to be detected by high-tech equipment.
"He dominates that terrain," Lynch said, adding that 13 of his troops have been killed since he came to Iraq in March. Lynch said most of his troops died as a result of armor-piercing roadside bombs that US officials allege are coming from Iran.
Eight US troops died in combat yesterday, including the six killed in Diyala Province, a Sunni stronghold north and east of Baghdad, when a roadside bomb exploded under their vehicle. A journalist traveling with them also was killed, the military said in a brief statement.
It did not identify the journalist, but a military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Garver, said later the victim was on a temporary assignment to Iraq and was neither American nor Iraqi.
Diyala has seen a spike in US troop deaths since the start of the security plan, which drove many insurgents out of neighboring Baghdad and Al Anbar.
This year, at least 60 American soldiers have been killed in the province, compared with 20 all of last year.
Two roadside bombs, one in northern Baghdad and one in the southern part of the city, killed the other two soldiers during the day. Another soldier died of injuries not related to combat.
The military also announced the deaths of two Marines in Al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, on Saturday.