6 U.S. troops die; McCain tours Baghdad

After a heavily guarded trip to a Baghdad market, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) insisted Sunday that a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in the capital was working and said Americans lacked a "full picture" of the progress. The U.S. military lat

6 U.S. troops die; McCain tours Baghdad

Four soldiers were killed responding to the blast that killed the first two, the military said. Britain, meanwhile, announced that one of its soldiers had been shot to death in southern   Iraq its 104th combat casualty since the war started four years ago.

McCain, a Republican presidential hopeful who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, acknowledged a difficult task lies ahead in Iraq, but criticized the media for not giving Americans enough information about the recent drop in execution-style sectarian killings, the establishment of security posts throughout the city and Sunni tribal efforts against al-Qaida in the western Anbar province.

"These and other indicators are reason for cautious, very cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy," said McCain, who was leading a Republican congressional delegation to Iraq that included Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record).

McCain, R-Ariz., was combative during the news conference, refusing to respond to a question about whether the U.S. had plans to attack  Iran. He also replied testily to a question about remarks he had made in the United States last week that it was safe to walk some Baghdad streets.

"Things are better and there are encouraging signs. I've been here many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport, never have I been able go out into the city as I was today," he said.

"I'm not saying 'mission accomplished,' 'last throes,' 'dead-enders' or any of that," he said. "I believe that the signs are encouraging, but please don't interpret one comment of mine in any way to indicate that this isn't a long, difficult struggle."

Members of the delegation spoke at a Green Zone news conference after they rode from Baghdad's airport in armored vehicles under heavy guard to visit the city's largest market, which was been hit by bombings including a February attack that killed 137 people. They said the trips were proof that security was improving in the capital. Prominent visitors normally make the trip from the airport to the city center by helicopter.

The congressmen, who wore body armor during their hourlong shopping excursion, said they were impressed with the resilience and warmth of the Iraqi people, some of whom would not take money for their souvenirs. They were accompanied by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

While the capital has seen a recent dip in violence as extra U.S. and Iraqi troops have flooded the streets, an Iraqi military spokesman said that militants fleeing the crackdown have made areas outside the capital "breeding grounds for violence," spreading deadly bombings and sectarian attacks to areas once relatively untouched.

The names of the slain U.S. soldiers were not given and the military did not give an exact location of the attacks, saying only that they occurred southwest of the capital. The military indicated that the first attack was Saturday before midnight and the second took place early Sunday.

A Marine serving in Anbar province also died in a "non-combat related incident," the military separately, raising to at least 3,253 U.S. service members who have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the Iraqi military spokesman, promised that recent attacks would not derail the neighborhood sweeps that began in Baghdad on Feb. 14.

More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in sectarian violence since March 25, most in a series of high-profile suicide bombings. Among them were at least 152 people killed in a suicide truck bombing in Tal Afar  the deadliest single strike since the war began four years ago. Shiites, including police, went on a revenge shooting rampage afterward, killing at least 45 Sunni men.

In the latest Iraqi violence, a bomb hit a popular market in Tuz Khormato, 130 miles north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing three people and wounding four. It was the second attack in the city in as many days. Two Iraqis seeking work were killed in a car bombing on Saturday.

A suicide car bomber followed in quick succession by a suicide truck bomber struck an Iraqi army headquarters in the northern city of Mosul, killing at least two people and wounding 22, including 15 soldiers, police spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri said.

Two top Sunni officials lawmaker Omar Abdul-Sattar and Omar al-Jubouri, an aide to Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi escaped an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb struck their convoy as it passed through one of Baghdad's most restive neighborhoods  the latest in a series of attacks by suspected Sunni insurgents against fellow Sunnis who have joined the political process.

A British soldier from the Duke of Lancaster's regiment died after being wounded by small-arms fire while on patrol in Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, becoming the 104th British to be killed in combat since the March 2003 invastion, the Ministry of Defense said.

Prime Minister  Tony Blair has announced that Britain will withdraw about 1,600 troops from Iraq over the next few months and hopes to make other cuts to its 7,100-strong contingent by late summer.

Police said Iraqi security forces backed by Sunni tribesmen clashed with al-Qaida fighters near the Syrian border, killing at least 21 members of the terrorist organization, police said.

Militants at an illegal checkpoint abducted 11 Shiite construction workers near Khalis, north of Baghdad in volatile Diyala province. Three women in the group were later freed. Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling for weeks in the province.

Separately, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said two suicide vests were found unexploded Saturday in the Green Zone, less than a week after a rocket attack killed two Americans in the vast central Baghdad district where the U.S. and British embassies and key offices of the Iraqi government are located.

With U.S. voters increasingly impatient with the conduct of the war and the American death toll rising, Democrats in the House and Senate have pushed through funding bills with timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces. The measures need to be reconciled before they are sent to President Bush, who has promised a veto.

Graham, R.-S.C., said setting a deadline would be a "huge mistake" and Bush would be right to use his veto because the security plan  to which Bush has pledged 30,000 extra American troops was working.

The delegation included Rep. Mike Pence (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., and Rep. Rick Renzi (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz.

Also Sunday, 20 bullet-riddled bodies were found, most in Baghdad, apparent victims of so-called sectarian death squads that are believed to be run by Shiite militias. The number was low compared to the average of 50 bodies per day that were turning up before the security crackdown.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16