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Middle east

Five US soldiers killed in Baghdad rocket attack

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-06

5 American troops and 16 Iraqis were killed on Monday in Central Iraq, US officials said. The deaths are the single largest loss of life for the American military in Iraq in the past two years and comes just months before all of them must withdraw.

AFP - Attacks killed five American soldiers and 16 Iraqis on Monday, the deadliest day for US forces in Iraq in more than two years, just months before all of them must withdraw.

The latest violence raises key questions over the capabilities of Iraqi security forces ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to pull out, with US officials pressing their counterparts in Baghdad to decide soon whether or not they want an extended American military presence.

"Five US service members were killed Monday in central Iraq," said a brief US army statement.

Captain Dan Churchill, a US military spokesman contacted by AFP, declined to give details on how or where the soldiers died.

An Iraqi interior ministry official and an Iraqi police officer, however, said five rockets struck the sprawling American Camp Victory base on Baghdad's outskirts.

The Iraqi officials both said the bodies of two apparent insurgents were found outside the American base, badly burned from two rockets having exploded inside their vehicle.

The deaths were the most of American service personnel in a single day since May 11, 2009, when a US soldier was arrested and charged for having opened fire on five of his comrades on a base just outside Baghdad.

They bring to 4,459 the number of American soldiers to have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003, according to an AFP tally based on independent website www.icasualties.org.

Also on Monday, violence in Baghdad and central Iraq killed 16 people, including 12 struck by a car bomb driven by a suicide attacker in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, officials said.

The fatalities in Tikrit included military intelligence Colonel Nuri Sabah al-Mashhadani and two other officers, while 20 other people were wounded, according to a police captain and an army captain, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nine soldiers were among the dead, including the three officers.

The explosion struck at 9:30 am (0630 GMT), targeting the main gate of a fortified compound housing several of Saddam's presidential palaces, which is home to security offices.

The compound is locally called Tikrit's "Green Zone," referring to the heavily secured centre of Baghdad where parliament and the US embassy are located.

The unrest came three days after attacks at a Tikrit mosque and hospital where victims were being treated killed 24.

Friday's violence was the worst in Tikrit since a March 29 Al-Qaeda raid on the city's provincial council offices, which led to an hours-long firefight with security forces that killed 58 people.

Tikrit is the capital of mainly Sunni Arab Salaheddin province, which was a key battleground in the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

Attacks in Baghdad left four people dead, including a soldier, and 12 others wounded, security officials said.

The latest violence raises concerns over the ability of Iraqi forces to secure the country, with 45,000 American troops due to withdraw at the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

The remaining US forces here are primarily charged with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts, though they still take part in joint counter-terror operations.

Iraqi leaders are still considering whether to request an extension of the US military presence, and top American officials have pressed their Iraqi counterparts to decide soon.

Date created : 2011-06-06

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