Attacks across Iraq kill nine US troops

Updated: 2007-05-23 21:16
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BAGHDAD - Roadside bombings and gunbattles across Iraq killed nine US servicemen, and US authorities were examining a body found in the Euphrates River south of Baghdad that Iraqi police believe was one of three US soldiers seized in an ambush nearly two weeks ago, officials said Wednesday.

The deaths of the seven soldiers and two Marines in a series of attacks Tuesday brought the American death toll for the month to at least 80. Last month, 104 US troops were killed in Iraq.

Also Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew up a cafe frequented by police east of Baghdad, killing 15 people, and another bomber attacked two brothers who were part of an anti-al Qaida alliance, killing 10 people, police said.

Thousands of US and Iraqi troops have endured scorching temperatures and waded through canals filled with sewage as they searched for the three American soldiers abducted in a May 12 ambush that killed four other soldiers and an Iraqi. An al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief US military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters that US authorities took custody of the body found Wednesday but have not determined if it was that of one of the missing soldiers.

"Iraqi police did find the body of a man whom they believe may be one of our missing soldiers," Caldwell said. "We have received the body and we will work diligently to determine if he is in fact one of our missing soldiers."

Iraqi police using civilian boats searched for other bodies on the river in Musayyib, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Baghdad, and US troops intensified their presence on a nearby bridge as helicopters flew overhead, witnesses said.

Hassan al Jibouri, 32, said he saw the body with head wounds and whip marks on its back floating on the river Wednesday morning. He and others then alerted police.

A senior Iraqi army officer in the Babil area told The Associated Press that the body was that of an American soldier. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

On Wednesday afternoon, police in Babil province reported they had discovered two more bodies in the river and suspected they belonged to the other two soldiers.

Caldwell, who only confirmed the discovery of one body, said he remained hopeful that all three soldiers would be found alive.

"We are going to continue searching for our three missing soldiers," he said.

In an interview with the Army Times newspaper last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, said he believed at least two of the missing soldiers were alive. "At one point in time there was a sense that one of them might have died, but again we just don't know," he said.

The military has warned that US casualties were likely to increase as troops made more frequent patrols during the 3-month-old US-led security crackdown in Baghdad.

Six of the soldiers who died Tuesday were killed by roadside bombs and the seventh was felled by small arms fire. The military said only that the two Marines were killed in combat operations in Anbar province.

Violence continued to plague the country Wednesday.

In the town of Mandali, on the Iranian border 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Baghdad, a suicide bomber walked into a packed market cafe and blew himself up, killing 15 people and wounding 20 others, police said.

The cafe in the mixed Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish city, was usually frequented by police, but no police officers were there at the time, police said. Police said a man of in his 30s wearing a heavy jacket despite the heat was seen walking into the cafe just seconds before the blast.

In another devastating attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the house of two brothers who were supporting a Sunni alliance opposed to al Qaida in the Anbar province, killing 10 people, including the men, their wives and their children, police Lt. Col. Jabar Rasheed Nayef, said Wednesday.

The attacker, a 17-year-old neighbor, broke into the house of the two men, Sheik Mohammed Ali and police Lt. Col. Abed Ali, and detonated his bomb belt about 11 p.m. Tuesday in Albo Obaid, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad.

The targeted men were part of the Anbar Salvation Council, a group of local Sunni tribal leaders who had banded together with government support to fight al Qaida, Nayef said.

Two mortar rounds slammed into Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Karradah, killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others, police said. One shell hit a house, while another exploded in a residential area near the national theater, police said.

Gunmen drove into a commercial area in central Baghdad and opened fire on shops, killing four civilians and injuring 14 others, police said. The attack broke out about 10:30 a.m. in the Khulani neighborhood near a historic Shiite mosque. A joint patrol of US troops and Iraqi security officers drove off the attackers, police said.

Also Wednesday, a parked car bomb exploded in a parking lot in the town of Jbala, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) south of Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding 15 others, police said.

In the turbulent city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, a roadside bomb hit a car carrying two Kurdistan Democratic Party officials, killing both men and one bystander, police said. A third KDP official was killed in a drive-by-shooting in Zumar, 70 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Mosul, police said.