A car bomb exploded next to a U.S. Army convoy in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing three soldiers, while another American died in a drive-by shooting a half-hour later. Their deaths pushed the number of U.S. troops killed in three days to 14, part of a surge in attacks that have also killed about 60 Iraqis.
The man blamed for instigating many of the attacks, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been injured, according to a Web statement in the name of his group, al Qaeda in Iraq.
Eighteen U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq during the past week, raising concerns that insurgents may again be focusing their sights on American forces in addition to Shiite Muslims.
The deaths come as American troops are trying to pave the way for a graceful exit from Iraq by giving more responsibility to the country's security forces. But with the Iraqis still relatively weak, U.S. troops remain in the firing line, targeted by insurgents that have shown increasing abilities to attack when and where they please.
More than 620 people, including 58 U.S. troops, have been killed since April 28, when insurgents launched a bloody campaign after Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his new Shiite-dominated government. The Associated Press count is based on reports from police, hospital and military officials.
As of Tuesday, at least 1,643 U.S. military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In other developments:Earlier, U.S. forces announced the capture of two leading militants with links to al-Zarqawi. Mohammed Daham Abd Hamadi, leader of the al-Noaman Brigades, was captured in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Monday. Hamadi's terror cell has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of Chinese and Turkish citizens, who were later freed. The other capture announced Tuesday was of Mullah Kamel al-Aswadi, who American forces described as the "most wanted terrorist in North-Central Iraq." Gunmen opened fire on a four-car convoy carrying conservative Shiite legislator Salamah al-Khafaji, one of the most prominent women in Iraq's new parliament. The lawmaker escaped unharmed, but four of her bodyguards were critically injured.Militants also gunned down two people and seized control of Tal Afar, a town 50 miles west of the northern city of Mosul, police said on Tuesday, hours after two car bombs killed at least 20 people late Monday.The U.S. military announced that a two-day operation involving more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, their largest-ever joint campaign in the Baghdad area, had rounded up 428 suspected insurgents.A Georgian serviceman suffered serious wounds to his legs and arms after the U.S. Army jeep he was traveling in north of Baghdad hit a land mine, Defense Ministry spokesman Nana Intskirveli. There are 850 Georgian troops serving in U.S-led coalition forces in Iraq. "It looks like he will have to have his arms and legs amputated," Intskirveli said, adding the soldier has been airlifted to Germany.
Insurgents continued to wreak havoc in the Iraqi capital despite the ongoing crackdown in the Abu Ghraib area, which has been targeting militants thought responsible for multiple attacks on the U.S.-detention facility there and the road linking downtown to the international airport.
Tuesday's blast occurred near eastern Baghdad's well-known Withaq Square, a Christian neighborhood, destroying at least three cars and damaging several buildings.
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