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3 More GI Deaths Reported In Iraq

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks in Iraq, the military said Thursday, as a suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi police station northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 13 people, according to police.

Most of the victims of the Thursday blast were recruits lining up outside the station in Hibhib, a town about 14 miles north of Baqouba, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. Baqouba is the capital of Diyala province, which lies northeast of Baghdad.

Fifteen others were wounded in the attack, the officer said.

Two Americans were killed and 10 wounded Tuesday in a mortar or rocket attack, the military said in a statement. It did not release details or the location of the attack, but said the soldiers were assigned to Task Force Marne, which is based on the southern fringes of Baghdad.

Another soldier was killed and two more wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle Wednesday during a combat logistics patrol near Basra, in southern Iraq, another statement said. The incident was under investigation, it said.

Military officials reported three deaths on Wednesday as well — three U.S. soldiers on patrol in eastern Baghdad who died Tuesday when they were hit by a sophisticated armor-piercing bomb known as an EFP (explosively-formed penetrator). Six more troops were wounded in the attack.

All six of the victims' names have been withheld pending family notification.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials underestimated how difficult it would be for the Iraqi government to pass political reforms, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, adding that the "depth of mistrust" among the factions is greater than anticipated.

Gates comments came as Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's party asked the country's largest Sunni Arab bloc Thursday to reconsider its withdrawal from government, in a last-ditch effort to restore Iraq's national unity government.

Talking to reporters on board his plane as he returned from a four-day swing through the Middle East, Gates said he is more optimistic about improvements in security in the wartorn nation than he is about getting legislation passed by the bitterly divided government.

"In some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation," Gates said. "The kinds of legislation they're talking about will establish the framework of Iraq for the future so it's almost like our constitutional convention ... And the difficulty in coming to grips with those, we may all have underestimated six or eight months ago."

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Gates, seen at left, said the political developments are "somewhat discouraging at the national level," but he hopes it can be patched back together.

Meanwhile, he said security is improving.

"I am optimistic on the security side because of what I see in al Anbar, and what we're seeing in some of the other provinces where we're getting some cooperation," he said.

All six Cabinet ministers from the Iraqi Accordance Front quit al Maliki's regime a day earlier, to protest what they called the prime minister's failure to respond to a set of demands. Among them: the release of security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

Their resignation left only two Sunnis in the 40-member Cabinet, undermining al-Maliki's efforts to pull together rival factions and pass reconciliation laws the U.S. considers benchmarks toward healing the country's deep war wounds.

Al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party issued a statement Thursday calling on the Accordance Front to "reconsider its decision."

"The party expresses its concern and regret about this setback for Iraqi politics, an action taken before exploring any dialogue," the statement said.

"We need to stand side by side as a national unity government and set aside all differences and cooperate, in order to answer the challenges our people are suffering," it said.

But an Accordance Front lawmaker, reacting to the Dawa statement, said Thursday that the bloc would reconsider its withdrawal only if promised "the priority of real partnership."

"If we were assured by tangible and concrete promises of real change...and the priority of real partnership, we would reconsider our stance," Salim Abdullah, a Sunni parliament member, told The Associated Press. But he added that he was not optimistic such assurances would come from al-Maliki.

In other developments:

  • A Marine Corps squad leader was convicted Thursday of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania during a frustrated search for an insurgent.
  • Brushing aside a veto threat, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Thursday to give U.S. troops guaranteed time at home between deployments to Iraq. The vote was 229-194 on the legislation, designed to complicate the Defense Department's ability to rotate sufficient troops into the war zone.
  • Altogether at least 142 Iraqis were killed or found dead, including 70 in three separate bombings Wednesday in Baghdad. The violence came after July ended as the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year, but with the lowest U.S. death toll in eight months. The deadliest attack occurred when a suicide bomber blew up a fuel tanker near a gas station in western Baghdad's primarily Sunni Mansour neighborhood. At least 50 people died and 60 were wounded, police said.
  • The American military announced it found a mass grave in Diyala province northeast of the capital. The grave contained 17 bodies of mostly Sunni Muslims — including women, children and elderly people — killed by al Qaeda in Iraq, the military said in a statement. U.S. forces did not say how they knew the attackers were al Qaeda in Iraq.
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces killed seven suspects and captured 22 others in raids across Iraq, the American military said Thursday. Among those targeted were emirs, or top-ranking figures, of al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said. One emir was captured and another was killed Wednesday in separate operations in Mosul, it said. Another emir was captured a day later in Baghdad, it added. U.S. troops also killed four suspects in separate raids in Mosul, Samarra and north of Karmah, the military said in a statement.
  • A soldier in prison for conspiring to rape an Iraqi girl and kill her and her family has left military prosecutors at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, struggling to recover after his testimony. Specialist James Barker admitted yesterday that he previously made false statements implicating a comrade. Barker testified he deliberately misled prosecutors depending on how they posed their questions, and had allowed investigators to draft sworn statements for him that implicated Private First Class Jesse Spielman of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in the crime.
  • U.S. casualties are down in Baghdad, but there is also positive news from Diyala province to the North. Brig. General Mick Bednarek, Deputy Commanding General of Operations in the region, tells CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick that additional troops and operations have al Qaeda militants on the move, and coalition forces hope to stay hot on their heels.
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