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Four US troops die in separate Iraq attacks
Updated: 2005-12-11 10:49

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents killed four American soldiers in separate attacks Saturday as violence mounted five days ahead of national elections. U.S. officials announced the release of 238 detainees but said the move was unrelated to demands by kidnappers of four Christian peace activists to free all prisoners.

Two of the soldiers were killed by small arms fire southwest of the capital, the U.S. command said. The others died in a roadside bombing in Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah and by small arms fire north of the city, according to the command.

The U.S. military also said an American soldier was killed and 11 others wounded Friday in a suicide car bombing in the Abu Ghraib district of western Baghdad. That brought to at least 2,140 the number of U.S. military members who have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Concern mounted over the fate of the four activists as a deadline set by kidnappers threatening to kill them passed on Saturday. The Interior Ministry said it had no information about the hostages, and various emissaries sent from Canada and Britain showed no sign they had established contact with the kidnappers.

The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade seized the activists two weeks ago. It first set a Thursday deadline but then extended it until Saturday, without giving a precise hour.

The four are Norman Kember, 74, of London; Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va.; and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32.

Sunni Arab clerics used their main weekly religious service Friday to plead for the hostages' lives because of their humanitarian work and condemnation of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

U.S. and British officials have expressed concern for the lives of the captives but made clear they would not bow to the kidnappers' demands.

On Saturday, U.S. officials said they had released 238 security detainees held by the multinational forces. However, such releases are common and arranged weeks in advance. U.S. Embassy spokesman Liz Colton said the release was not in response to the kidnappers' demands.
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