Deadliest Day In 2 Years For U.S. In Iraq

A U.S. Navy Seal looks towards insurgent movements from the rooftop of an observation post January 21, 2007 in Ramadi in the Anbar province of Iraq.
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Four U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed during combat in Anbar province, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military announced Sunday.

The five newly reported deaths raised Saturday's toll among American forces to at least 25, the third deadliest single day for U.S. troops since the war began in March 2003.

The military gave no further details on the Anbar fighting and said the identities of the dead were being withheld until family could be notified.

A roadside bomb also struck a security patrol conducting combat operations northeast of Baghdad, killing one Multi-National Division — Baghdad soldier and wounding three others.

As of Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007, at least 3,057 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,434 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 38 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.

Iraqi officials also announced Sunday that gunmen who killed five U.S. troops in the Shiite holy city of Karbala wore military uniforms and used vehicles commonly driven by foreign dignitaries — an apparent attempt to impersonate Americans.

Provincial Gov. Akeel al-Khazaali, who was not at the security meeting, said the SUVs were able to get through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, 50 miles south of Baghdad, because police assumed it was a diplomatic convoy and informed headquarters that it was coming.

"The group used percussion bombs and broke into the building, killed five Americans and kidnapped two others, then fled to the area near Mussayib," about 20 kilometers to the north, the governor said, adding that Iraqi troops later found one of the SUVs with the three dead bodies dressed in military uniforms.

The U.S. military, which has said that five U.S. soldiers were killed and three were wounded while repelling the attack, denied that two U.S. troops were kidnapped.

"Nothing has changed since the night before," Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said. "During the attack on our coalition forces, we sustained five U.S. KIA and three US wounded. All of MND-Baghdad (multinational division) personnel were accounted for after the action."

A security official in Karbala, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information to the media, also said the gunmen who carried out the attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center were using SUVs similar to ones used by the U.S. authorities. He said during their attack, the gunmen used stun grenades then left shortly afterward.

In Other Developments:
  • Iraq's prime minister has dropped his protection of an anti-American cleric's Shiite militia after U.S. intelligence convinced him the group was infiltrated by death squads, two officials said Sunday.
  • The first reinforcements of U.S. troops under the new Bush strategy already have started to flow into the Baghdad region. A 3,200 member brigade of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, part of the buildup, has arrived in Baghdad and will be ready to join the fresh drive to quell sectarian violence in the capital by the first of the month, the American military said Sunday.
  • A bomb struck a small bus in Baghdad as it headed to a predominantly Shiite area on Sunday, killing six passengers and wounding 10, police said.
  • A roadside bomb struck a British army patrol in southern Iraq, killing one soldier and wounding four, a military spokeswoman said. The attack occurred at about 7:30 a.m. on the northern edge of the city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest, causing the casualties, Capt. Katie Brown said. One of the soldiers was seriously wounded, she said.
  • In a desperate bid to fend off an all-out American offensive, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr last Friday ordered the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers under his control to end their nearly two-month boycott of the government. They were back at their jobs Sunday.
  • Al-Sadr had already ordered his militia fighters not to display their weapons. They have not, however, ceded control of the formerly mixed neighborhoods they have captured, killing Sunnis or forcing them to abandon their homes and businesses.

    Among the 25 American service members were killed in military operations Saturday were 12 who died in a helicopter crash and five slain in an attack by militia fighters in the holy city of Karbala, military officials said.

    Saturday's toll was the third-highest of any single day since the war began in March 2003, eclipsed only by 37 U.S. deaths on Jan. 26, 2005, and 28 on the third day of the U.S. invasion. U.S. authorities also announced two American combat deaths from Friday.

    The heavy toll comes at a critical time of rising congressional opposition to President Bush's decision to dispatch 21,500 additional soldiers to the conflict to try to curb sectarian slaughter.

    The military gave little information on the crash of the Army Black Hawk helicopter during good weather in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias for months in the province, around the city of Baqouba.

    Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a U.S. spokeswoman, said the cause of the crash had not been determined. Navy Capt. Frank Pascual, a member of a U.S. media relations team in the United Arab Emirates, told Al-Arabiya television that the helicopter was believed to have suffered technical troubles before going down.

    The military initially said 13 people were on board the aircraft but corrected the number on Sunday, saying 12 soldiers died, including eight passengers and four crew members.

    The helicopter crash was the fourth deadliest since the start of the war. The worst crash occurred on the war's deadliest day, Jan. 26, 2005, when a Marine transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in Iraq's western desert, killing 30 Marines and a sailor. On the same day, six other U.S. forces died in combat for a total of 37 deaths.

    The second highest daily toll was on March 23, 2003 when 28 service members were killed as American forces were pushing toward Baghdad on the third day of the U.S.-led invasion.

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      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.