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Six U.S. Troops Killed In W. Iraq

A roadside bomb attack killed five U.S. Marines and gunfire killed an American sailor in a western Iraqi town, the U.S. military and Iraqi officials said Thursday, as an upsurge in rebel violence battered American forces.

The Marines died Wednesday after their vehicle was attacked near Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. Officials in Ramadi had reported a roadside bomb blast in the pre-dawn hours.

A sailor attached to the Marines' unit, the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was also killed Wednesday in Ramadi by gunfire, the military said.

The six U.S. deaths raised Wednesday's toll from insurgent attacks to 58 killed, making it the deadliest day of violence in more than a month.

At least 1,714 U.S. military members have died since the war began in 2003, according to an AP count.

In other recent developments:

  • A suicide car bomber slammed into a truck Thursday that was carrying policemen along the main road connecting Baghdad with its airport, killing at least eight officers and injuring at least 25, police and hospital officials said. The suicide bomber plowed his black sedan at high speed into a truck carrying police officers from checkpoint to checkpoint along the road about 4 p.m. The officers were part of an evening shift that was replacing other officers at the checkpoints, said police Maj. Moussa Abdul Karim and medic Najam Abid of the al-Yarmouk hospital.
  • A judge and his bodyguard were killed Thursday morning in an eastern Mosul neighborhood where many residents support the now-banned Baath Party of toppled President Saddam Hussein, officials said. Six masked gunmen in two cars blocked the road and sprayed the judge's car with machine-gun fire, said Mosul court Judge Abdul al-Hassaniani and Dr. Bahaa al-Din al-Bakri of the city's hospital. The officials identified the dead judge as Salim Mahmoud al-Haj Ali. Mosul is 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
  • A car bomb exploded early Thursday in northern Baghdad, injuring five Iraqi soldiers, police Capt. Ahmed al-Nedawi said. The car was parked on a street and detonated by remote control, he said.
  • Another car bomb struck an Iraqi military convoy in the northern city of Kirkuk, injuring five soldiers and an 8-year-old boy, police Capt. Farhad Talabani said. The attack slightly damaged three military vehicles and two civilian cars, leaving the pavement stained with blood. Kirkuk is 180 miles north of Baghdad.
  • On Wednesday, Iraqi and U.S. forces freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood. The 64-year-old engineer was rescued after 47 days in captivity from Ghazaliya — one of Baghdad's most dangerous Sunni Arab neighborhoods. It is located near the road that links the city to the airport and is considered the capital's most perilous stretch of concrete. The joint raid was carried out after authorities received a tip. Wood appeared haggard and tired and U.S. troops had to support him as he was led to an armored personal carrier. But the longtime resident of California smiled broadly and gave cameras a thumbs-up during a medical checkup at a U.S. military facility.
  • Also on Wednesday, a militant strapped with more than 100 pounds of explosives and disguised in an army uniform blew himself up in a crowded mess hall at an army base in Khalis, about 45 miles north of Baghdad. The militant, wearing an army uniform and strapped with about 110 pounds of explosives, waited until soldiers gathered for lunch before blowing himself up, said Iraqi army Col. Saleh Al-Obeidi. The blast killed 26 soldiers and wounded another 26 belonging to the Al-Salam battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi army in Diyala province, the army said. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing.

  • In Baghdad, Iraqi legislators seemed close to agreement on a demand by Sunni Arabs for more participation in the effort to draft a constitution.

    A Shiite-dominated parliamentary committee drafting Iraq's new constitution offered a compromise to the country's Sunni Arab minority in an effort to break a deadlock over demands they have a bigger say in drawing up the charter.

    The offer suggested that 13 additional Sunni Arabs join the committee in a parallel body. The head of a major Sunni religious organization and a spokesman for the community's largest political party rejected committee chairman Hummam Hammoudi's offer.

    The Sunni Arab community has said it wants 25 more people to join their two legislators already on the committee. Representatives from the 55-member committee and the Sunni Arab community were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the proposal.

    An agreement on the constitution would help defuse growing sectarian tension between the majority Shiites, who control the government, and the Sunnis. The minority is thought to make up the core of an insurgency that has killed at least 1,080 people since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's government was announced April 28.

    The surge in attacks appeared aimed at derailing efforts by Shiite and Kurdish politicians to bring the disaffected Sunni Arab minority into the political process, particularly the drafting of the new constitution. The new charter must be approved by parliament by mid-August and put to a nationwide vote two months later. If passed, it will be the basis for a new election in December.

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