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10 US troops killed in Iraq

Deaths raise toll this month to at least 30

By Kim Gamel
Associated Press / December 7, 2006

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BAGHDAD -- Ten US troops were killed in Iraq yesterday, a major blow on the same day a high-level panel in Washington recommended gradually shifting US forces from a combat to a training role.

The US military said in a statement that 10 Americans had died in four separate events but gave no further details, pending notification of relatives. In addition to the 10 casualties, the US command said two US soldiers were killed Sunday in Baghdad and two Marines and a Navy sailor were killed in Anbar province earlier this week.

The latest deaths raised to at least 32 the number of US troops who have died this month. At least 69 troops were killed in November and 105 soldiers were killed in October -- the highest amount for a month since January 2005.

At least 2,920 service members have been killed since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other violence yesterday, two mortar rounds landed and exploded in a secondhand goods market in a mixed Shi'ite-Sunni area in central Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens, said police officers Ali Mutab and Mohammed Khayoun, who provided the casualty totals.

About 25 minutes later, a suicide bomber on a bus in Sadr City detonated explosives hidden in his clothing, killing two people and wounding 15, police First Lieutenant Thaer Mahmoud said.

It appeared to be the first attack by suspected Sunni Arab insurgents on the large slum since Nov. 23, when a bombing and mortar attack killed 215 people in the deadliest single attack since the Iraq war began more than three years ago.

A total of at least 75 people were killed or found dead across Iraq on Wednesday, including 48 whose bullet-riddled bodies were found in different parts of the capital.

Gunmen broke into a school in western Baghdad at noon, killing its Sunni headmaster in his office, then instructing teachers not to return, an Iraqi army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged university professors and students to ignore a Sunni Arab insurgent group's warnings to avoid class, calling them "desperate attempts."

The group had sent e-mails to students and posted signs at schools and mosques saying students should stay away while it cleanses the campuses of Shiite death squads, according to a statement from al-Maliki's office late Tuesday.

The government also announced the capture of a senior aide to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who took over as leader of al-Qaida in Iraq after his predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

Mouwafak al-Rubaie, the government's national security adviser, said U.S. and Iraqi forces captured the aide, though he did not specify where or when. He said 60 percent of al-Qaida in Iraq's leadership has now been captured or killed.

Coalition forces have also detained several leaders of Ansar al-Sunnah, an insurgent group allied with al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Rubaie added.

"The noose is tightening around Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and I can say with all confidence that al-Qaida in Iraq is undergoing a very real leadership crisis," al-Rubaie said at a news conference.

U.S. ground and air forces also conducted a raid targeting foreign insurgents near the Iranian border, killing a militant who opened fire on an aircraft, the U.S. command said.

The early morning raid took place near Khanaqin, a remote desert area 85 miles northeast of Baghdad where U.S. forces have helped Iraqi soldiers set up outposts designed to stop foreign insurgents and their weapons supplies from crossing into Iraq.

A coalition aircraft was leaving the raid when it took small arms fire from a vehicle below; it returned fire, destroying the vehicle and killing its armed insurgent, the command said. One suspected militant also was detained in the raid, which resulted in no U.S. casualties, the statement said.