BAGHDAD, IRAQ — BAGHDAD, Iraq - Even as a United Nations team toured Iraq to examine the prospects for elections this spring, insurgents launched a series of deadly bombings yesterday in the Sunni Muslim-dominated region outside Baghdad, killing five American soldiers and four Iraqi civilians.
Three U.S. soldiers died at a military checkpoint when a vehicle rigged with explosives detonated near a bridge in Khaldiyah. Six other Americans and numerous Iraqis were wounded in the afternoon attack. The victims were treated at a nearby military hospital, according to military spokeswoman.
Iraqi witnesses said a four-wheel-drive vehicle drove up to the checkpoint and exploded in front of a U.S. Army Humvee trying to block it. At least eight Iraqis - six of them women - were injured, according to Dr. Ahmed Nasrat Jabouri of the provincial hospital in nearby Ramadi.
"It shook the whole area," Emad Ghareb Hamid said of the blast. U.S. troops sealed off the area while ambulances and helicopters evacuated the casualties.
Khaldiyah, in the Sunni Triangle region, has been a flashpoint of resistance in recent weeks. Last month, 17 Iraqis died there when a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi police station.
In Fallujah, just east of Khaldiyah, two American soldiers were killed when their convoy was attacked with an improvised explosive device, or IED, planted alongside the road, the military said. Names of the soldiers were withheld pending notification of families.
A third attack in the biblical town of Samarra, about an hour north of Baghdad, narrowly missed a passing military convoy and killed at least four Iraqis standing near the town's main courthouse, according to Amer Mushin Salman, spokesman for the Salahudin Governate, where Samarra is located. "They are targeting the innocent citizens of Iraq," Salman said.
The blast injured another 39 bystanders, including three U.S. soldiers, and destroyed seven cars. "It detonated soon after a U.S. patrol had passed," said Sgt. Robert Cargie, a military spokesman in Tikrit.
The latest deaths brought to 512 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the United States and its allies launched the Iraq war March 20. Most of the deaths have occurred since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
On average, coalition forces have come under attack 17 times a day over the past week, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman, said yesterday. That's down from the average in November, the month before Saddam Hussein's capture, when 55 attacks were reported daily. At the same time, officials have said that in the months since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, insurgents have become more deadly in their attacks.
In recent days, northern Iraq, which has been more peaceful than the central region, has seen a surge in bloodshed. In the past week, five U.S. troops were wounded in the Mosul area in two separate IED attacks.
One IED hidden in a vegetable cart wounded three soldiers as their convoy approached a traffic circle in Mosul, according to Maj. Mike Shervington, a military spokesman.
In a separate attack earlier in the week, two soldiers were seriously wounded during a nighttime patrol to search for IEDs.
On Friday, two helicopter pilots were killed when their OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed south of Mosul. The military is investigating but has no evidence that that helicopter was shot down.
The incidents underscored the precarious security in much of Iraq as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan weighs a U.S. and Iraqi request to play an increased role in the political transformation of the country.
A two-member U.N. security team arrived Friday in Baghdad to study the possible return of international staffers. They were withdrawn from Iraq in October after two attacks on the U.N. headquarters, including a truck bombing in August that killed 22 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Special correspondent Suhail Ahmed and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
Killed in Iraq
As of yesterday, 512 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations, and 2,519 U.S. service members have been wounded. Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations had ended, 374 U.S. soldiers have died.
Three soldiers were killed yesterday with an explosive in Khaldiyah; two others were killed as their convoy was attacked with an explosive north of Fallujah.
- Associated Press