US troop deaths top 1,900 in Iraq
The Euphrates River city is the capital of Anbar Province, a huge region that stretches east from Baghdad to the Saudi, Jordanian and Syrian borders. Many cities, towns and villages along the river are insurgent strongholds, where Saddam Hussein loyalists have teamed with infiltrating foreign fighters of al-Qaida in Iraq to battle the Americans and U.S.-trained Iraqi army and police.
There have been reports of fighting in the region since Thursday, when al-Qaida in Iraq said in an Internet posting that its forces and the Americans had engaged in heavy combat.
In recent weeks, rebel bombs have been responsible for 70 percent to 80 percent of American soldiers killed or wounded, according to U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Boylan.
Since the start of the war, about 32 percent of American military deaths have been from improvised explosives, suicide bombs or other such blasts — compared with about 48 percent in firefights and other combat. About 19 percent died in accidents.
The Sunni-dominated insurgency has conducted a rampage of violent attacks since a suicide bomber blew himself up amid laborers gathered for day work in Baghdad, killing 112 people, mostly Shiites. Thirteen more bombings in the next 10 hours produced a staggering toll of 167 dead, the bloodiest day in the capital since the invasion.
Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility, and its leader, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared war on the country's Shiite majority.
A spokesman for Iraq's prime minister, meanwhile, described as "very
unfortunate" an incident in the southern city of Basra in which British armored
vehicles broke down the wall of a jail to try to free two British soldiers who
were later found in the custody of local militiamen elsewhere in the city.