Blast kills 3 US soldiers, 17 Iraqis

Three American soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on Sunday during combat operations in the Iraqi city of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, the US military said.The military said in a statement the soldiers were killed as a result of a “suicide vest attack”, but gave no further details. The US military’s overall losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion have now reached 3,866, according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures, which also take into account soldiers who die after leaving Iraq for treatment.

At least 861 US soldiers have been killed since the beginning of 2007, already the deadliest year for the military since the 2003 invasion.

Meanwhile, at least 17 people were killed by explosions in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities on Sunday, Iraqi police and officials said.

Nine people were killed and at least 20 others were also wounded in one of the worst attacks in the Iraqi capital in several weeks, which police said targeted Iraqi finance ministry adviser Salman Mugotar.

A finance ministry source said Mugotar was unhurt in the blast in Hurriya Square in Baghdad’s Karrada district, but at least two wounded were reported to be his security guards.

Brigadier General Abdul Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said the car that was targeted belonged to Satar Jabar, chief editor of the New Bayna newspaper. He said Jabar was riding in the car, but was also unharmed. He gave a lower death toll for the attack.

A Reuters witness at the scene saw two burned bodies in the back of a police truck. Roadside bombs wounded two people in the Ameen district of southeastern Baghdad, and wounded another two in the Kesra neighbourhood of northern Baghdad. Rockets or mortar rounds also landed in the Rustumiya neighbourhood of southeastern Baghdad, police said, but there were no details about casualties from that attack.

Iraqi civilian and US military casualties have dropped sharply in the past two months. US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said attacks had fallen by 55 per cent since a deployment of an extra 30,000 US troops was completed in June.

Attacks are now at their lowest level since January 2006. The drop in violence has also been attributed to improving Iraqi security forces and the growing use of US-backed local police units organised by mainly Sunni Arab tribal sheikhs.

However, US and Iraqi officials say insurgency and sectarian strife between majority Shiites and minority Sunni Arabs, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, could still reignite.

In Baqouba, an ethnically mixed and volatile city 65 km north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a US foot patrol killed at least three children, two of them siblings, and wounded seven people, police said.

In Mosul, 390km north of Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeting a police patrol killed three people, including a woman, police said. Four policemen were among 16 wounded.

Police said a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi army officer and a soldier and wounded another while they were trying to defuse the bomb in Tikrit, 175km north of Baghdad.

The governor of the southern Shiite province of Muthanna, meanwhile, accused US troops of opening fire on civilian cars, and called for provincial officials to suspend cooperation with multi-national forces in the province.

Ahmed Marzok said that six people, including two police, were wounded in the shooting near Rumaitha, north of the provincial capital of Samawa, 270km south of Baghdad.

A US military spokesman said no information was immediately available when contacted about the incident.

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