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3 Americans die in Anbar; Iraqi translator targeted

BAGHDAD -- Three US troops and an Iraqi woman translator were killed in separate incidents yesterday, while the country's largest Sunni Arab party appealed to authorities to end a military crackdown in Sunni villages northeast of Baghdad.

The three Americans were assigned to the First Marine Expeditionary Force and died in fighting in Anbar, the US military said.

They were the first US fatalities reported in Iraq since Tuesday, raising the number of US personnel killed this month to eight. The average of one death a day is down sharply from a rate of more than two a day in recent months.

Iraqi police said the translator, whose name was not released, was slain in a drive-by shooting in southwestern Baghdad. She worked for the Americans but was off-duty at the time, police Captain Maithem Abdul-Razaq said.

Interpreters and others working for the Americans have long been targeted by insurgents who accuse them of ``collaborating" with ``occupation forces."

In a statement yesterday, the Iraqi Islamic Party said US and Iraqi troops had surrounded 15 mostly Sunni villages near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, making it difficult for civilians to move around.

The statement called on Iraqi and US forces to allow food and medicine to enter the villages and compensate farmers for damage .

Last week, the Iraqi military announced operations in the Muqdadiyah area after an increase in insurgent activity. The mostly farm area sits astride a highway between Baghdad and Kurdish areas to the north and is in a province where tensions are high between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The Iraqi Islamic Party is headed by one of Iraq's two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, who the Americans hope can persuade disaffected fellow Sunnis to abandon the insurgency and participate in political life so the United States can begin withdrawing troops.

Two influential US senators visiting Iraq said they were assured yesterday by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, that his unity government will reach out to Sunni Arabs and crack down on Shi'ite militias blamed for much of the country's sectarian violence.

Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, said Maliki told them it would be ``feasible" to redeploy a small portion of US troops ``perhaps this year" because more Iraqi soldiers have been trained and sent into the fight.

Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, said the prime minister also seems serious about encouraging insurgents to accept amnesty and rejoin the mainstream and ``appears to be prepared to take concerted action against militias" blamed for rising sectarian violence.

Nevertheless, the government, which took office in May, faces a formidable task to calm sectarian tensions, cut a deal to end the insurgency, and restore stability.

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