Iraqi firefighters work at the site of the blast after a car bomb exploded in Basra, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 31, 2005, killing at least 20 people and injuring about 40, a police official said.The blast went off about 8:30 p.m. in a commercial area filled with shops and restaurants, many of them packed with people out for the evening during Ramadan festivities.(AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani)
Capping the bloodiest month for American troops since January, the U.S. military reported Monday that seven more U.S. service members were killed — all victims of increasingly sophisticated bombs that have been become the deadliest weapon in the insurgents' arsenal.
Bombs also claimed a toll Monday among civilians in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city and the major metropolis of the Shiite-dominated south, which has witnessed less violence than Sunni areas. A large car bomb exploded along a bustling street packed with shops and restaurants as people were enjoying an evening out after the daily Ramadan fast. At least 20 were killed and about 40 wounded, police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi said.
Watch raw video of the response after the attacks
Military commanders have warned that Sunni insurgents will step up their attacks in the run-up to the Dec. 15 election, when Iraqis will choose their first full-term parliament since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
To guard against such attacks, the military has raised the number of American troops in Iraq to 157,000 — among the highest levels of the Iraq conflict.
Most of the combat deaths and injuries in recent months have been a result of the increasing use by insurgents of sophisticated homemade bombs, responsible for the deaths of the seven Americans killed since Sunday. The military refers to those bombs as "improvised explosive devices," or IEDs.
Last Friday, an IED killed Col. William W. Wood, 44, of Panama City, Fla., an infantry battalion commander. He was promoted posthumously, making him the highest-ranking soldier killed in action in the Iraq conflict, according to the Pentagon.
"We see an adversary that continues to develop some sophistication on very deadly and increasingly precise stand-off type weapons — IEDs, in particular," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told reporters Monday.In other developments
: A military tribunal in Kuwait has opened hearings for an Army sergeant charged with killing two superior officers in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez faces murder charges in the June seventh incident. Military authorities say the soldier rigged a bomb to explode at an Army base.
A brother of one of Iraq's two vice presidents was shot and killed Sunday on his way to work in Baghdad, officials said. Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, brother of Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, was gunned down along with his driver at 7:45 a.m. while traveling to work at the office of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, two aides to the vice president said.
In another part of Baghdad, four gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying acting Trade Minister Qais Dawood Hasan after it left his office in the upscale Mansour neighborhood, police said. Hasan was wounded, two of his guards killed, and six other people injured, five guards and an Iraqi passer-by, said police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud and Dr. Mohanad Jawad at Yarmouk Hospital.
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