BAGHDAD -- A suicide car bomber linked to Al Qaeda killed 13 people just outside Baghdad's Green Zone yesterday, the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture. Clashes resumed in Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold that American forces believed they had conquered, and nine Marines died in combat in western Iraq and around the capital.
The violence underlined the difficulties US-led forces have encountered in the year and a half since Hussein's ouster in trying to end a rampant insurgency and bring the country under control. US military commanders acknowledge that they initially underestimated the strength of the insurgent backlash and that coalition-trained Iraqi security forces are not yet up to securing their own country.
The fighting in the western Anbar province, which includes Fallujah and Ramadi, killed seven Marines yesterday, the deadliest for US forces since eight Marines were killed Oct. 30 by a car bomb outside Fallujah. Today, the US military said two soldiers from the First Marine Expeditionary Force died in Baghdad province.
The deaths brought to nearly 1,300 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
In Baghdad, a militant in an explosives-laden car waiting in line to enter the western Harthiyah gate of the Green Zone detonated the vehicle as he drove toward the checkpoint, police said. The heavily fortified area houses the US Embassy and Iraq's interim government.
Dr. Mohammed Abdel Satar of Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital said 13 people were killed and 15 wounded in the suicide blast. The US military said there were no injuries to its troops.
Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted on an Islamic website regularly used by militants.
"On this blessed day, a lion from the [group's] Martyrs' Brigade has gone out to strike at a gathering of apostates and Americans in the Green Zone," the group said in a statement, the authenticity of which could not be immediately verified.
A blast also struck the checkpoint this morning. Police and US officials, however, had no details on the explosion.
The international zone has seen frequent insurgent attacks in the past 18 months. Dozens of people have been killed.
Also yesterday, a US soldier died in a vehicle accident north of Baghdad, the military said. Another soldier was injured.
In Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded and wrecked two US Humvees, wounding three US soldiers and an Iraqi civilian, Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton said.
Jubilant Iraqi men were seen holding up pieces of the Humvees and dancing around their charred hulks, near a large crater in the road.
In Mishahda, 25 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen attacked an Iraqi National Guard patrol, killing three soldiers and wounding three others. The attackers fled, witnesses said.
US forces retook Fallujah from insurgents in a bloody battle last month in which hundreds died, including 54 Americans. The city had fallen under the rule of radical clerics and their mujahedeen fighters after Marines lifted a three-week siege of the city in April. After the latest campaign, US commanders claimed that they had broken the back of the insurgency in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas of western Iraq, but fighting in the region has continued.
In the central Iraqi city of Samarra, insurgents attacked patrolling US soldiers with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. One missed the troops and detonated near a group of children, killing a 9-year-old boy and injuring another child, US military spokesman Major Neal O'Brien said.