Violence in Baghdad and central Iraq leaves 21 killed, including five US troops


Violence in Iraq left 21 people killed on Monday, including five American soldiers. It is the deadliest day for US troops there in more than two years, with just months to go before all US forces must withdraw from Iraq completely

The US military did not give details on how the soldiers died, but an Iraqi interior ministry official and an Iraqi police officer said five rockets struck the sprawling American Camp Victory base on Baghdad’s outskirts.

“Five US service members were killed Monday in central Iraq,” a US army statement said, without giving further details.

Captain Dan Churchill, a US military spokesman, declined to give details on how the soldiers died.

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. Both officials said five rockets hit Camp Victory.

It was the highest number of American service personnel killed 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.

Monday’s deaths bring to 4,459 the number of American soldiers to die in Iraq since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003, according to an AFP tally based on independent website

Some 45,000 US soldiers are still based in Iraq, primarily charged with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts, though they still take part in joint counter-terror operations.

All American forces must withdraw from Iraq completely by the end of the year, under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

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.

Violence in Baghdad and central Iraq, meanwhile, 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 unrest came three days after attacks at a Tikrit mosque and hospital where victims were being treated killed 24, raising doubts over the capabilities of Iraqi security forces just months before all US forces must pull out.

Monday’s attack killed 12 people, including military intelligence Colonel Nuri Sabah al-Mashhadani and two other officers, and wounded 20 others, according to a police captain and an army captain, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

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

Salaheddin provincial health director Raid al-Juburi had earlier put the toll at eight dead and 17 wounded.

The explosion struck at 9:30 am (0630 GMT), targeting the main gate of a fortified compound housing several of the late president’s presidential palaces, which is home to security offices and also the mosque that was attacked on Friday.

The compound is locally called Tikrit’s “Green Zone,” referring to the heavily secured center of Baghdad where parliament and the US embassy are located.

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.

In Baghdad, two attacks by gunmen on checkpoints in the mainly Sunni northern neighborhood of Adhamiyah killed three, one soldier and two anti-Qaeda militiamen, and wounded two others, an interior ministry official and a military official said.

And a car bomb in the eastern district of Palestine Street killed one person and wounded 10 others, the ministry official said.